Palmeiras are in control of their last-16 tie against Cerro Porteno in the Copa Libertadores after claiming a 3-0 win in Tuesday's first leg in Asuncion.

A second-half brace from Rony before a late sealer from Murilo gave the two-time defending Libertadores champions a healthy buffer coming back to Sao Paulo for next Wednesday's second leg.

Abel Ferreira's side just edged it on the basis of play over 90 minutes and took the lead right on the hour, with Rony meeting Gustavo Scarpa's inviting cross to the back post, to head home in transition.

After a VAR confirmation and some wonderful individual work from Raphael Veiga to bring Gustavo Gomez's hoof under control to release Scarpa, Rony made it 2-0 in the 69th minute and effectively ended the contest.

Murilo put the punctuation mark on the result, heading home from close range in the 87th, following Gomez's knock down from a corner.

Palmeiras moved to 19 straight away games without a defeat in the Libertadores, looking to win the tournament three times in a row for the first time since Independiente claimed four consecutive titles between 1972 and 1975.

 

Quintero returns but Velez triumph

Velez Sarsfield claimed a shock first-leg win over River Plate, winning 1-0 at the Estadio Jose Amalfitani.

Lucas Janson scored the lone goal from the penalty spot in the 15th minute, but Velez arguably should have won by more, with a scuffed effort from Manchester City signing Julian Alvarez in the 38th minute the only notable chance for River.

Juan Fernando Quintero was introduced for River after half-time, making his return from an injury sustained in April, but Velez had the better chances of the second half.

Velez captain Lucas Pratto had an chance to double the margin in the 52nd minute, with Franco Armani also denying substitute Abiel Osorio twice from close range. Janson then had a goal disallowed in the 75th minute, keeping River in the tie.

Flamengo take first leg victory

Last season's finalists Flamengo side took the first-leg victory despite a poor performance in Ibague, defeating Deportes Tolima 1-0.

Andreas Pereira capped off what will be his final week at the club on loan from Manchester United, scoring the winning goal in the 17th minute.

Lucas Silvestre's side did little to consolidate their margin with the ball, with a passive majority of possession taking over and facilitating chances on the other end.

Julian Alvarez bagged an extraordinary six goals as River Plate finished off the Copa Libertadores group stage with a win, smashing Alianza Lima 8-1 on Wednesday.

The Manchester City-bound 22-year-old had effectively secured the win for River in their final game in Group F, scoring a brace in the opening 20 minutes, before sealing a first-half hat-trick four minutes from the interval.

His third was the pick of the bunch, too, retreating between the lines to receive the ball before driving low and hard into the bottom corner from just outside the penalty area.

Following Santiago Simon's goal in the 53rd minute, Enzo Gomez arguably topped them all for degree of difficulty, sending the ball into the top corner in the 79th minute before Alvarez rounded out the scoring four minutes later.

Los Millonarios ended the group stage undefeated, claiming 16 points from a possible 18 with the win.

Fortaleza snatch second from Colo Colo

In the other Group F game, Fortaleza took the three points and second spot from Santiago, defeating Colo Colo 4-3.

With both teams even on seven points coming into the final matchday, Los Albos needed the win but started the match in an inadequate fashion, conceding in only the second minute to Silvio Romero.

A Moises double before Yago Pikachu's goal in the 61st minute put Fortaleza in control, despite a brace of own-goals from Brayan Ceballos.

Cerro Porteno scrape through

Olimpia were unable to leapfrog Cerro Porteno in Group G despite claiming a 1-0 win in Asuncion, putting the latter through to the last 16 on goal difference.

El Decano needed to win by two goals or more in this Libertadores edition of the Paraguayan Clasico, trailing the Clausura champions by three points and with an inferior goal difference of one.

Despite an early goal from Fernando Cardozo in the 10th minute, they were unable to break the Azulgrana down and will have to continue in the Copa Sudamericana, finishing third.

River Plate boss Marcelo Gallardo hailed his team's performance as they secured their path to the Copa Libertadores knockout stage, thrashing Colo Colo 4-0 on Thursday.

Agustin Palavecino's goal just before the interval gave Los Millonarios critical momentum for the second half, with goals from Nicolas de la Cruz, David Martinez and Ezequiel Barco eventually putting them six points clear atop Group F with a game left.

Following the weekend's shock elimination to Tigre in the Copa de la Liga Profesional, Gallardo's side ultimately dominated the Chilean league leaders, recording 28 shots to six for a cumulative xG total of 3.39 to 0.87.

The 46-year-old coach believes it was a necessary response from his team on top of what was at stake in the group.

"We played a very good match," Gallardo said. "I think the first half was quite even. Colo Colo are a tough team.

"In the second half we adjusted some things, we were more precise and vertical. The result could have been even better.

"We had to vindicate ourselves after last week's setback and the team did very well, they recovered against a strong rival. There was a great collective response, we achieved the qualification [to the last 16] and we surpassed Colo Colo by far.

"We were in a key game, with our people, to vindicate ourselves with what was the setback last week. I think we did well, the team recovered against a very good opponent."

In Thursday's other results in the Copa Libertadores, Deportivo Cali leapfrogged Corinthians and Boca Juniors to move to top spot in Group E, securing a 3-0 win over Always Ready, while a Hulk brace helped Atletico Mineiro defeat Independiente del Valle 3-1.

Colo Colo were unable to make up ground on River Plate in the Copa Libertadores, playing out a 1-1 draw away to Alianza Lima on Thursday.

The Chilean side translated their early dominance into a goal in the 22nd minute albeit from a dead ball, when Leonardo Gil's corner was flicked on by Maximiliano Falcon, with an unmarked Lucero tapping in at the back post.

The visitors had a chance to double the margin only five minutes later when Pablo Miguez was called for a hand ball in the penalty area, but Lucero hooked his attempt and failed to hit the target.

Alianza made them pay straight out of the interval, equalising in the 46th minute. After some aerial tennis, Hernan Barcos deftly brought the ball down and played through Wilmer Aguirre, who fired past Brayan Cortes.

In what was ultimately a tight second half, Falcon had an opportunity to retake the lead for Colo Colo deep into stoppage time from another corner, but his unmarked header went agonisingly wide.

Although the draw leaves Los Albos only three points behind River Plate in Group C with seven points from four games, Fortaleza sit three points behind in third and can still relegate them to the Copa Sudamericana spot.

River Plate drop points in Brazil

The Colo Colo draw came after River Plate's shock 1-1 stalemate with Fortaleza at the Estadio Castelao.

After conceding only one goal over their opening three victories in Group C, Los Millonarios were down 1-0 in only the fourth minute, with Lucas Crispim setting up Silvio Romero.

Enzo Fernandez equalised 13 minutes later from the penalty spot after Tomas Pochettino was brought down, but despite good chances in the second half, River failed to capitalise and make it four victories from four.

Bragantino deny Velez a first Group C win

Velez Sarsfield's hopes of progressing to the knockout stage were dealt a blow after their 1-1 draw with RB Bragantino.

Veteran Lucas Pratto put El Fortin ahead in the 14th minute with a neat finish from an acute angle, and looked as though they were going to hold out for their first group-stage win in Sao Paulo.

With the goal, Pratto now has the highest active number of goals in the competition, scoring 28 times.

Jose Hurtado equalised for Bragantino in the 84th minute with his first-time volley, keeping them in second with five points and putting Estudiantes in box seat to progress from Group C.

River Plate left it late to claim their third successive win in this season's Copa Libertadores group stage, defeating Colo Colo 2-1 in Santiago.

Matias Suarez and Esequiel Barco scored in the final 10 minutes for the four-time Libertadores winners in an overall cagey 90 minutes at the Monumental David Arellano.

Los Albos had an apparent penalty waved away in first-half injury time, when Paulo Diaz brought down Juan Lucero as he was cutting back onto his right foot to shoot.

Diaz would be prominent again with Matias Suarez breaking the deadlock for River in the 83rd minute, though. The Chile international and former Colo Colo player quickly won back possession before playing through Marcelo Herrera, whose cross was not dealt with, and Suarez was on hand to punish.

Returning from injury, Esequiel Barco played a full match and doubled the margin in the 88th minute, rifling home from just outside the penalty area, before Lucero scored a consolation in the second minute of injury time.

Palmeiras make it three from three

Palmeiras took control of Group A and secured their third win of this season's group stage, with the 2021 Libertadores winners defeating Emelec 3-1 in Guayaquil.

The Verdao have not struggled for goals despite a middling start to the Serie A season, and they opened the scoring in spectacular fashion in the 19th minute. 

Following Mayke's cross-field pass, Rony headed in Wesley's first-time delivery back across the penalty area, with the ball not touching the ground in that sequence.

Gabriel Veron made it 2-0 six minutes later, cutting through the Emelec defence in transition, before calmly slotting home past Pedro Ortiz. Joao Rojas scored for the hosts in the 61st, but Breno Lopes eventually restored the two-goal margin.

Pikachu gets two assists as Fortaleza relieve pressure

In the other Group F result, Fortaleza claimed their first-ever win in the Libertadores, defeating Alianza Lima 2-1 at home on Wednesday.

After two respective defeats to begin their Serie A and Libertadores campaigns, Silvio Romero put Fortaleza ahead five minutes after the restart.

Alianza claimed an equaliser in the 70th minute with Pablo Lavandeira getting on the end of Yordi Vilchez's cross, but Yago Pikachu got his second assist of the night, setting Hercules up for the winner nine minutes later.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola is enthused by the signing of Argentina international forward Julian Alvarez from River Plate, describing the transfer as "a really, really good deal".

The Premier League leaders announced the signing of Alvarez on Monday, when the forward turned 22, in a deal worth a reported £14million ($18.8m).

Alvarez has signed a five-and-a-half-year deal but will stay with River on a loan that will last until at least July and could be extended.

He had been linked with a number of Europe's biggest clubs after scoring 24 goals in 46 games for River in all competitions during an impressive 2021.

That form saw him earn his first senior Argentina cap in June and he has gone on to feature a further five times for his national side.

"I saw him many times, I have the info about him and for the age, for the price, for many reasons and for the future it's a really, really good deal," said Guardiola.

"He is a guy who has a sense of goal, the quality, the movement in behind - a street player.

"The club decided OK, for that age and especially for the fact he stays under Marcelo Gallardo, one of the best managers in the world by far, he's going to develop again and again in this part of the season.

"He is so dynamic. I think when he is playing the goal is there in his mind with the way he finishes and makes the movements over five metres."

Describing what else he likes about the new signing, Guardiola added: "He has the desire, the passion and the strength without the ball.

"He is so young and you see that. He is hungry. At that age it is so nice to have. It can refresh so many things in a team when you have that.

"That is why I love to work with academy players, when they have the talent and skills, and they are good here.

"When that happens, it is so productive for the senior players that we have because they produce something new in terms of rhythm, with no complaints.

"I like to have 15 or 16 top players otherwise you can’t compete. The rest I like to have from the academy, but they have to be good, or it makes no sense.

"In pre-season he will come, he will join us and after that we'll see what happens."

Guardiola sees Alvarez playing in a central role for City when he joins up with them.

"Up front, in the middle," he said after being asked where Alvarez may fit into his line-up. "I see a player more in positions between the pockets and the striker. 

"A guy with this sense of goal has to play close to the goal."

City host Championship side Fulham in the FA Cup fourth round on Saturday.

Manchester City have confirmed the signing of Argentina international forward Julian Alvarez from River Plate in a deal worth a reported £14million ($18.8m).

Alvarez has signed a five-and-a-half-year deal with the Premier League champions but will stay with River on a loan that will last until at least July and could be extended.

He had been linked with a number of Europe's biggest clubs after scoring 24 goals in 46 games for River in all competitions during an impressive 2021.

That form saw him earn his first senior Argentina cap in June and he has gone on to feature a further five times for his national side.

City announced Alvarez's arrival on their official website on Monday, the day the attacker turned 22.

"Julian is a player we have monitored for some time," said Txiki Begiristain, City's director of football.

"He is capable of operating in a number of attacking roles, and we firmly believe he's one of the best young attacking players in South America.

"I am so happy we have managed to bring him to Manchester City. I really believe we can provide him with the right conditions to fulfil his potential and become a top player."

Speaking prior to the deal being announced, River president Jorge Brito said he was hopeful a Copa Libertadores run would see Alvarez stay on loan at the club beyond July.

City are also reportedly open to letting the youngster spend the second half of the year with another team, potentially a sister club within the City Football Group.

Alvarez, who previously had a trial with Real Madrid, is considered one of the hottest young talents in South American football after lighting up the Argentine Primera Division.

He scored 20 and assisted a further 12 goals in 36 games in the division last year, with those 32 direct goal involvements at least six more than any other player in 2021.

Cordoba-born Alvarez has won six trophies during his four seasons with River, including the Primera Division last season when leading the division for goals with 18.

Julian Alvarez is poised to sign for Manchester City, River Plate have confirmed, but the forward will return to Argentina on a loan that could yet be extended into next season.

Forward Alvarez enjoyed an outstanding 2021, scoring 24 goals in 46 games in all competitions for River.

That form saw the 21-year-old break into the Argentina senior squad and has also now earned him a big move to Premier League champions City.

A deal reportedly worth £15.4million (€18.5m) is set to be completed before Monday's transfer deadline in England, but Alvarez will then head back to River at least until July.

And River president Jorge Brito hopes a run in the Copa Libertadores could see City agree for their newest recruit to continue his loan into the second half of 2022.

"Julian is almost an addition for us," Brito told ESPN. "He is almost irreplaceable for [coach Marcelo] Gallardo.

"The loan is until July 7 – although there is a clause that speaks of the 'greatest efforts' between the three parties: we, who are the sellers, Manchester City, which is the buying club, and the player.

"There are possibilities that he will continue with us if River continues in the Copa next season."

Anthony Martial has made no secret of his desire to leave Manchester United in the January window – and the France international appears to have been granted his wish.

Restricted to just four starts in all competitions this season, Martial has very much been on the periphery at United in what is his seventh campaign at the club.

However, there are no shortage of suitors for Martial and it looks increasingly likely that the 26-year-old will spend the remainder of the campaign away from Old Trafford.


TOP STORY – SECOND TIME LUCKY FOR SEVILLA

Sevilla had a loan bid for Martial rejected earlier this month, but Goal reports that the issues have been ironed out and the out-of-favour forward is now set to undergo a medical.

Juventus are said to have been among a number of other European sides in the running to sign Martial, but Sevilla were always his preferred destination.

The LaLiga club are expected to pay a loan fee for the former Monaco man, potentially as much as €5.96million (£5m), while the player himself will accept a cut in wages.


ROUND-UP

– After growing frustrated in their attempt to sign Dusan Vlahovic from Fiorentina, The Sun reports that Arsenal may now instead go after Real Madrid's Luka Jovic this month.

– Calciomercato claims that Serie A leaders Inter are close to strengthening their squad with the addition of striker Felipe Caicedo from Genoa.

Watford are set to move quickly on the back of sacking head coach Claudio Ranieri by bringing in Roy Hodgson as early as Tuesday, according to Sky Sports.

– Goal suggest that Bayern Munich are targeting Chelsea's Andreas Christensen on a free transfer after Niklas Sule turned down the offer of a new contract in Bavaria.

Manchester City are increasingly confident of wrapping up a deal for Julian Alvarez. However, the Daily Mail reports that the striker will initially remain on loan with River Plate.

Newcastle United have made a fresh approach for Man Utd winger Jesse Lingard, according to The Telegraph. The Magpies are happy to pay a £6m loan fee.

The race for Erling Haaland's signature will be a huge story in 2022.

The 21-year-old sensation has interest from some of Europe's biggest clubs.

Haaland has netted 63 goals in the past 18 months for Borussia Dortmund.

 

TOP STORY – MAN UTD GIVE UP ON HAALAND

Manchester United have pulled out of the race to sign Dortmund's Haaland, according to ESPN.

The Red Devils will focus on alternative attacking options with uncertainty around Edinson Cavani and Cristiano Ronaldo's futures at the club while Haaland is favouring a move to Real Madrid.

United have had a long-standing interest in the Norwegian, who has a €75 million (£62m) release clause on his Dortmund contract.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester City are closing in on a deal for River Plate's 21-year-old Argentina international Julian Alvarez, claims The Telegraph. As part of the imminent deal, Alvarez – who has interest from Milan, Inter and Juventus – will remain with River until June. The fee is expected to be no less than £20m.

- Liverpool have joined the race to sign Borussia Monchengladbach's Denis Zakaria, according to ESPN. The Reds will rival Dortmund and Bayern Munich who are both keen on the Swiss midfielder.

- Ajax's Mexico international Edson Alvarez is attracting interest from Premier League trio Chelsea, Leicester City and Crystal Palace, reports Football Insider.

- Leeds United have opened contract talks with Brazilian superstar Raphinha,  according to the Daily Star, amid interest from Chelsea and Liverpool .

- French club Nice are set to offer Tottenham's Bryan Gil a loan deal, according to L'Equipe. The Spaniard has struggled for impact since his move to England.

- Diario AS claims that Valencia are working on a January deal for Athletic Bilbao defender Unai Nunez .

2021 is dead – long live 2022.

It's a new year, and while the one changing to a two literally overnight may seem arbitrary, it gives us an excuse to look ahead and what's on the horizon.

Of course, we're now into a World Cup year – 12 months from now, we'll have newly crowned world champions and, who knows, maybe a new superstar or two will have emerged.

While there's no guarantee about a player's trajectory, Stats Perform have at least put together a list of 22 under-22 players who could be worth keeping an eye out for in 2022.

GOALKEEPERS

Etienne Green, 21, English – Saint-Etienne

Honestly, he's not included just because of the perfection of a player called Etienne Green playing for Les Verts, Saint-Etienne – though that certainly warrants a mention. Colchester-born Green has played 23 times in Ligue 1 for the club, making Leeds United's Ilan Meslier the only goalkeeper born after 2000 to play more often (53) across the top five leagues. In April he became the fourth Ligue 1 keeper since Opta records began (2006-07) to save a penalty on his debut and he's since gone on to nail down a starting spot. Having recently declared for England over France, Green could be an outside bet for Gareth Southgate's squad at Qatar 2022.

Maarten Vandevoordt, 19, Belgian – Genk

In 2019, Vandevoordt became the Champions League's youngest ever goalkeeper at 17 years and 287 days old – it proved to be a bit of a nightmare as Genk lost 4-0, with youngster at fault for two goals. It would've been enough to shatter the confidence of most young players, but Vandevoordt's since gone on to become first-choice, playing 16 league games in 2020-21 and all 21 this term.

DEFENDERS

Kaiky, 17, Brazilian – Santos

If there's any area of the pitch that one might consider to be the hardest to establish yourself in as a young player, most would say centre-back. Yet, despite not turning 18 until January 12, Kaiky has racked up an impressive number of appearances there for Santos. He played more minutes in the 2021 Brasileirao (1,334 minutes) and the Libertadores (495) than any other under-19 player and has impressed with his comfort in possession, aerial ability and demonstrable appetite for defending. He has a long way to go, but he sure has made a promising start.

Becir Omeragic, 19, Swiss – FC Zurich

Omeragic is among the most highly rated young centre-backs in Europe and was in Switzerland's Euro 2020 squad – despite still being only 19, he's already played 71 Swiss Super League games for Zurich. This season he ranks highly in numerous metrics among defenders, such as tackle attempts (29, fifth-highest), interceptions (26, seventh-highest) and possession won (105, fifth-highest), while he offers good progression on the ball, his carry progress of 1,796.6m upfield being the fourth-best among all defenders – two of those are full-backs. Expect to see him in one of Europe's biggest leagues fairly soon.

Ilya Zabarnyi, 19, Ukrainian – Dynamo Kiev

Previously linked with Chelsea, among other major clubs, Zabarnyi caught the eye at Euro 2020 with some mature displays. Despite being the joint-youngest player in the squad, Zabarnyi was one of the five players to play every minute for Ukraine, and among those to feature for at least 100 minutes, he ranked in the top three for touches (72.8) and passes (60.6) on a per-90 basis. Similarly, only four played more passes into the final third than him (4.7), and three of those were midfielders. A move to a bigger league will give us a better idea of just how good Zabarnyi is, but the promise is there.

Ethan Laird, 20, English – Swansea City (on loan from Manchester United)

Manchester United have rated right-back Laird highly for a while – he actually made his senior debut for them as far back as November 2019 in the Europa League. Since then, he showed great promise at Milton Keynes Dons and then followed coach Russell Martin in making the jump to the Championship with Swansea City, where he's continued to impress. Only three defenders in the division have created more chances than him in open play (23), while his five big chances created is the second-most in the Swans squad. With Aaron Wan-Bissaka seemingly unable to kick on at United, Laird's opportunity may arrive in 2022.

Alex Balde, 18, Spanish – Barcelona

Barcelona have seemingly once again become great trusters of youth – not that their situation has given them much of a choice. Balde's not yet one of those to become a regular, and you'd think he will struggle to dislodge Jordi Alba at left-back, but in his four LaLiga appearances the 18-year-old has shown real promise with his ability on the ball and pace. Given his skillset and Xavi's desire to play with classic wingers, he may find himself used further up the pitch – either way, he's definitely one to watch.

George Bello, 19, American – Atlanta United

Nigeria-born Bello may not be 20 until late January, but he's already made a strong impression in MLS, so much so that he became a regular part of the USA's senior side in 2021. Added to that, his 2,433 minutes played was the most of any MLS player to end the season as a teenager. An attack-minded left-back, Bello is excellent on the ball and possesses great pace, and he may well be on the move soon given his contract expires at the end of 2022. If anyone takes a punt, they could be rewarded handsomely.

MIDFIELDERS

Yacine Adli, 21, French – Bordeaux (on loan from Milan)

Milan fans have every reason to be excited about Adli. The kind of silky playmaker that makes almost everything look effortless, he has created more chances after a carry (11) than any other midfielder in Ligue 1 this term. He may not be a great goal threat himself, but his six assists is the second-most among the same group of players (Dimitri Payet has seven) – all of Adli's were from open play, however, which is the most the league's midfielders. Whether he can keep that up at Milan is unclear, but if he can, they'll have a real asset on their hands.

Unai Vencedor, 21, Spanish – Athletic Bilbao

Athletic are one of LaLiga's stranger teams in that they don't win, lose, score or concede very often, yet that's not stopping Vencedor from thriving. A controlling presence with satisfying calmness on the ball in centre midfield, Vencedor is mature for his age and already has significant influence over Athletic's play. Just Iker Muniain and Inaki Williams have been involved in more open-play shot-ending sequences than Vencedor (47) among Athletic players, while the former (eight) is the only one with more instances of being involved in build-up and taking the shot (five) at the end, highlighting his importance to not only keeping them on the ball but also posing an attacking threat.

Nicolo Rovella, 20, Italian – Genoa (on loan from Juventus)

Granted, Rovella's hardly a hidden gem given Juve signed him in a deal potentially worth €20m last January, but he's still not quite a household name. Nevertheless, he looks a real prospect. A deep-lying midfielder, Rovella is elegant on the ball, hard-working without it and excellent at set-pieces. For struggling Genoa this season, his 4.0 possession wins every 90 minutes in the middle third is the 15th highest among Serie A midfielders (min. 500 minutes played), as is his 1.4 successful tackles – though only four players from the same group who have attempted at least 20 boast a better success rate than him (71.4). There's talk he could be recalled by Juve in January, which highlights the impression he's making.

Caden Clark, 18, American – RB Leipzig

With goals against Atlanta United and then Toronto four days later in October 2020, Clark became the youngest player MLS history to score in each of his first two games – the second was an absolute scorcher as well. The 18-year-old agreed a move from New York Red Bulls to RB Leipzig in 2021 and he officially makes the switch in January, with no return loan planned. The technically gifted midfielder has his chance to make it in the big-time, and the Bundesliga has previously been a good next step for MLS stars.

Hannibal Mejbri, 18, Tunisian – Manchester United

Some United fans are disappointed Hannibal didn't get more opportunities under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and he's been restricted with Ralf Rangnick because of his involvement in the Arab Cup and the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations. But when he returns, there's every indication he may get more chances, or at least that's what Rangnick recently intimated. A silky and creative midfielder, but one who has a tendency to lose his head, Hannibal might be able to provide the extra injection of craft often missing from United's midfield.

WINGERS

Kayky, 18, Brazilian – Manchester City

There's every chance Kayky and Angelo could be challenging each other for a spot in the senior Brazil team one day. Now at Manchester City after joining from Fluminense in a deal apparently worth an initial £8.4million, Kayky's development is going to be fascinating to watch. With Flu, the talented winger became the club's youngest player and goalscorer in the Libertadores before making the switch to England in pre-season. He was on the bench for the Boxing Day win over Leicester City, and with COVID-19 cases proving an issue across the Premier League, there's every chance we may see a bit more of Kayky in the near future.

Angelo Gabriel, 17, Brazilian – Santos

Every year it seems there's a new Brazilian teenager causing a stir and subsequently being linked with a big move to Europe – the latest is Angelo Gabriel. The newest 'new Neymar', Angelo is actually a left-footed right winger but the similarities in style of play are at least comparable in that he's a good dribbler, skilful and likes to cut inside off the flank. Angelo's made the jump up to the first team a little earlier than Neymar, though – he only turned 17 in December but already has 51 first-team appearances to his name. In April, he became the Copa Libertadores' youngest-ever scorer (16 years, 105 days old) and was also the only under-17 player to feature in the 2021 Brasileirao.

Alan Velasco, 19, Argentinian – Independiente

Showing quality in Argentina's domestic league isn't always a guarantee of future greatness, but doing well as a tricky youngster does speak to a certain degree of bravery and resilience given the brutal reputation of the top flight. Velasco is among the league's most-promising young players, a skilful, quick and dangerous left winger. His 62 chances created this season is the fifth most in the division, while no player can better his 198 dribbles completed. Could he be a wildcard choice for Argentina at the World Cup? Don't rule it out.

Rayan Cherki, 18, French – Lyon

It feels like 2022 could be a massive year for Cherki. The versatile attacker is still nowhere near being a regular at Lyon, despite many feeling Peter Bosz's appointment might prove a boost to the teenager – after all, he played an important role in developing Kai Havertz and Florian Wirtz. Yet, the raw ability is undoubtedly there for Cherki – whether he'll be able to harness that properly at Lyon remains to be seen, with suggestions growing that he might seek a move away in the next year.

FORWARDS

Yuri Alberto, 20, Brazilian – Internacional

Yuri Alberto looks likely to be 'one who got away' for Santos. He left for Internacional in 2020 after initially showing promise at Vila Belmiro and has been a shrewd acquisition, scoring 22 times in 56 Brasileirao appearances, the most of any player currently 24 or younger. His 12 in the 2021 season was only bettered by four players and he scored more hat-tricks than anyone else (three) during the calendar year – one of those being netted in the late-finishing 2020 campaign.

Mohamed-Ali Cho, 17, French – Angers

A dynamic, exciting forward who is most comfortable out wide at the moment, Cho may only be 17 but he already has 39 Ligue 1 appearances under his belt. Where France seem to have lost out to England with Green, Les Bleus look to be winning the battle for Cho, who spent five years at Everton until 2020. Now a France Under-21 international, Cho is the youngest player to have scored in Ligue 1 this season having netted against Rennes back in August when he was aged 17 years and 222 days.

Ricardo Pepi, 18, American – FC Dallas

Yes, another American. While Clark may not make it into the United States' World Cup squad, Pepi almost certainly will. A very well-rounded striker who is tall, agile and hard-working, Pepi has also – perhaps most importantly – proven an able finisher, with his 13 MLS goals in the 2021 season being the joint-most ever managed by a teenager in the competition. Similarly, he's also the youngest player to ever score in consecutive World Cup qualifiers for the USA. He has a long-term contract at Dallas, but no one would be surprised to see him leave for Europe in 2022, with Germany a likely destination. Expect him to fetch the largest ever fee for an American leaving MLS.

Matias Arezo, 19, Uruguayan – River Plate (URU)

Uruguay has produced some truly great strikers down the years. After more of a barren spell in that regard since Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez came through, there is once again a cause for optimism with Darwin Nunez, Agustin Alvarez and, arguably chief among them, Arezo. He scored 13 times in 35 Uruguayan Primera appearances last term – he surpassed that haul with 15 from six fewer appearances in 2021. For comparison's sake, Suarez got 10 in 27 in his first full season in the division with Nacional, while Cavani recorded nine in 25 appearances for Danubio before moving to Europe. A well-built striker, he's definitely one to watch ahead of the World Cup – assuming Uruguay get there.

Julian Alvarez, 21, Argentinian – River Plate

A sensational last couple of months in 2021 elevated Alvarez to a new level, one which has seen him mentioned regularly in transfer gossip columns – United are apparently especially keen. The striker, now an Argentina international, scored a total of 24 club goals across 2021, while also setting up a further 12 in the league, showing both his ability to finish chances and create them. A move abroad seems highly probable – where that takes him and how he does will be intriguing to watch, particularly ahead of the World Cup.

Ousmane Dembele could become the face of a new Barcelona but his future remains unclear.

Xavi has made it clear how much he rates the France international, but his contract expires at the end of the season.

Barca are keen to extend his stay, though it appears their chances have suffered a setback.

 

TOP STORY - DEMBELE TALKS HIT PROBLEM

Barca's latest meeting with Dembele's agents did not have the "expected end", with "tension" rising in negotiations, according to Sport.

While the Catalan daily claims Barca are still confident of reaching an agreement, with Dembele having previously given the green light over a renewal, the forward will be able to open discussions with other clubs over a free transfer from January 1.

Sky Sport Italia reports Manchester United and Newcastle United, the latter of whom are expected to have plenty to spend in January, have already registered an interest.

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- River Plate's highly-rated forward Julian Alvarez seems poised to leave sooner rather than later. TyC Sports suggests Man Utd have requested a meeting with his agent to understand what it would cost to sign the 21-year-old.

- Many players are likely to be linked with Newcastle over the coming weeks but Atletico Madrid and England right-back Kieran Trippier appears one of the likeliest to join them. Fabrizio Romano claims the Magpies are "still working" on the deal, though Los Colchoneros are yet to receive a bid.

- Borussia Dortmund have not given up hope of retaining Erling Haaland. The Norway sensation has been linked with most of Europe's biggest clubs, but Bild says BVB are willing to make him their highest-paid player of all time.

- Barcelona want to solve their issues in the striker role by bringing Alvaro Morata back to LaLiga from Juventus, according to AS, though there is an acceptance the deal will be a complicated one to pull off due to the fact he is on loan from Atletico.

Matthijs de Ligt's agent Mina Raiola is ready to find the defender a new club.

The outspoken representative suggested he could join Barcelona, Real Madrid or Paris Saint-Germain.

He also indicated the Premier League was of interest to the Juventus centre-back.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA FRONTRUNNERS TO LAND DE LIGT

Chelsea are leading the race to sign Juventus defender De Ligt, claims The Sun.

Raiola has indicated the 22-year-old is ready to leave Juve, who are off the Serie A title pace this term.

Chelsea are expected to lose a host of defenders and eager to make a move for De Ligt.

 

ROUND-UP

- Cashed-up Newcastle United have an eye on Inter forward Edin Dzeko as well as a loan deal for Manchester United's Anthony Martial, reports The Sun.

Manchester United have been in touch with River Plate about 21-year-old Argentinean forward Julian Alvarez, claims Ole.

United are also set to win the race to sign Olympique Marseille midfielder Boubacar Kamara according to FourFourTwo.

- Gerard Romero claims that Tottenham will make another move for Barcelona defender Clement Lenglet after missing out on him last transfer window.

- Fabrizio Romano reports that Jonathan Ikone's move from Lille to Fiorentina is agreed with only the paperwork left to be signed on a five-year deal with a €15m fee.

Jesse Lingard's future does not appear to be with current club Manchester United.

Contract talks between Lingard and United have reportedly broken down.

The England international has only played eight times in all competitions this season, starting just once.

 

TOP STORY –  LINGARD SET FOR JANUARY SWITCH

Manchester United midfielder Jesse Lingard will make a £10million move to West Ham in January, according to The Sun.

The Red Devils are said to be looking to cash in on the 28-year-old England international before he is out of contract at the end of this season.

Lingard impressed during a six-month loan spell with the Hammers in the second half of last season, with nine goals and four assists.

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- Tottenham are also interested in signing Lingard on a free transfer in the off-season, according to the Daily Express.

- United are prepared to sell Diogo Dalot to Roma in order to facilitate a deal for Atletico Madrid's England full-back Kieran Trippier, claims the Manchester Evening News.

- Marca claims that Real Madrid are ramping up their pursuit of Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger, who is out of contract at the end of this season. Bayern Munich are also said to be tracking the Germany international.

- Promising young Argentina international Julian Alvarez is being monitored by Italian powerhouse pair Juventus and Milan, reports Calciomercato. Alvarez, who has four Argentina caps, is currently with River Plate who will wait until December to evaluate any offers.

Xavi has his work cut out at Camp Nou following his appointment as Barcelona head coach.

Barca have struggled on the pitch amid off-field turmoil and financial problems.

But Xavi wants to make Barca great again and he reportedly has his eyes on some players across Europe.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA EYE TRIO

RB Leipzig star Dani Olmo and Manchester City pair Ferran Torres and Raheem Sterling are transfer options for Barcelona, according to Thursday's Mundo Deportivo.

Xavi is now at the helm of Barca and the club great is tasked with restoring the fortunes of the embattled LaLiga giants.

The Barca head coach is keen to reinforce his squad in either January or at the end of the season.

Barca have also been linked with Chelsea forward Timo Werner and Manchester United veteran Edinson Cavani.

 

ROUND-UP  

- Gazzetta dello Sport says Paul Pogba is set to leave United and Juventus are trying to re-sign the Frenchman, though his salary is proving problematic. Pogba is out of contract at the end of the season and he has been linked with Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain.

Inter are pressing Marcelo Brozovic to sign a new contract by Christmas, claims Gazzetta dello Sport. The Croatia international is reportedly wanted by Barca, Liverpool, PSG and United.

Steven Gerrard is expected to join Aston Villa as their new manager, reports Fabrizio Romano. The Rangers boss is set to be joined by his backroom staff at Villa.

Fiorentina are trying to sign River Plate striker Julian Alvarez as Dusan Vlahovic prepares to leave but Juve are also interested, according to Corriere dello Sport. Vlahovic has no plans to renew in Florence and the Serbia international has been linked with City, Atletico Madrid, Arsenal, Tottenham, Juve and Inter.

- The Mirror says United are confident of landing Leicester City's Brendan Rodgers as their new manager. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is under mounting pressure at United and former Liverpool boss Rodgers has emerged as a target for the struggling Red Devils due to a release clause in his contract.

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