Chelsea are showing they still have plenty of business to take care of during this transfer period, with reports they will make significant bids for Barcelona's Frenkie de Jong and Leicester City's Wesley Fofana.

De Jong has been a central figure in transfer news since the season ended, locked in an ongoing saga with Manchester United after they finally met Barcelona's asking price, only for the 25-year-old Dutch international to reveal he has no interest in heading to a club outside of the Champions League.

Meanwhile, Chelsea have been outgoing about their desire for another quality centre back to bring in along with Kalidou Koulibaly, and after Barcelona swooped in at the 11th hour to land Blues target Jules Kounde, Fofana is the new hot name in their hunt for a long-term solution in the middle of defence.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA PREPARE BIG-MONEY BIDS FOR DE JONG AND FOFANA

In the immediate aftermath of Barcelona securing Kounde, reports came out that Chelsea were then unwilling to do further business with the Spanish giants, withholding Marcos Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta.

However, that seems to have changed as Sport is reporting the Stamford Bridge side will make a bid for De Jong, who Barcelona value at €80million, and if a deal can be made, Barca will then immediately use some of those funds to sign Manchester City midfielder Bernardo Silva.

For the 21-year-old Fofana, who has represented France at the under-21 level, Leicester reportedly value him at £85m after recently locking him down on a five-year contract expiring in 2027. Paris Saint-Germain are also said to be interested in the Foxes' defender.

 

ROUND-UP

– The Athletic are reporting Chelsea have also put out a feeler for 26-year-old Inter defender Denzel Dumfries, while Sport Italia's Rudy Galetti claims they are also discussing Milan Skriniar.

– According to the Daily Mail, Newcastle United have turned their attention to Leicester winger Harvey Barnes after having their bid for James Maddison turned down.

Manchester United are reportedly weighing up moves for 25-year-old Stuttgart striker Sasa Kalajdzic and RB Salzburg 19-year-old Benjamin Sesko, with the latter said to be valued at over £50m.

– ESPN are reporting that if Manchester City cannot land Brighton left-back Marc Cucurella, then they will pivot to Borussia Dortmund's Raphael Guerreiro, who has 56 international caps for Portugal.

– Ekrem Konur has revealed that Aston Villa face stiff competition in their pursuit of Bodo/Glimt right-back Alfons Sampsted, with the 24-year-old Iceland international also drawing interest from Bayer Leverkusen, Lyon and Lazio.

With the end of one transfer saga comes the start of another. 

Robert Lewandowski has secured a long-awaited move to Barcelona, fulfilling a "dream" in the process and leaving Bayern Munich in the market for a new striker to lead their line.

But just how do you go about finding a like-for-like replacement for the most prolific marksman anywhere in the world?

One suggestion is that Bayern will make do with what they have, with Sadio Mane – a wide forward rather than a striker – having already been recruited from Liverpool this window.

While that may work, there are other potential options out there for Bayern to consider ahead of their latest title defence as they aim to win the Bundesliga for an 11th time in a row.

Here, Stats Perform takes a closer look at exactly what the Bavarian giants are losing in Lewandowski, and where they could go next.


LEWY LEADS THE WAY

Labelling Lewandowski as the best striker in European football is not hyperbolic when assessing the cold hard facts. 

The Poland international is coming off the back of a campaign that saw him register 50 goals in 46 games in all competitions, which is six goals more than the next-best Karim Benzema among players from Europe's top five leagues.

 

It is not like Lewandowski's output levels were dropping, either. The 35 league goals he registered last season are second only to the record-breaking 41 netted in the 2020-21 campaign across his 12 seasons in the German top flight with Borussia Dortmund and then Bayern.

Indeed, he has finished as the league's top scorer in each of the past five seasons, scoring 161 goals across that period, with no other player managing such a long streak in the competition's history. 


BEST OF THE REST

Put simply, Bayern surely cannot match those numbers with one player alone. If it is a pure goalscorer the German champions are after to fill the void, the aforementioned Benzema would be their best bet, the Real Madrid striker having scored 44 goals in 46 games last time out.

Persuading Madrid to let go of their focal point in attack would be nigh-on impossible, of course, likewise with Kylian Mbappe – Europe's third most prolific player in the 2021-22 season (39 goals in 46 games) – at Paris Saint-Germain.

Next on that particular list is RB Leipzig's highly-rated talent Cristopher Nkunku, who scored 35 goals in 52 matches last season and also chipped in with 16 assists. When purely weighing up goal involvements, Nkunku was only five short of Lewandowski last season, in a team with far less quality.

 

Indeed, Nkunku's 35 strikes last season came from an expected goals (xG) value of 28.23, meaning that he found the net 6.77 times more than he should have judging by the quality of the chances. Only Benzema (9.9) can better than across Europe's top five leagues.

Nkunku is not strictly a number nine, though, and his arrival – even if Bayern could tempt Leipzig into selling – would mean Julian Nagelsmann having to adapt his system in the final third of the field.


FORGET KANE... GO FOR KALAJDZIC

The likes of Timo Werner, Patrick Schick and Harry Kane are other names to have been touted as possible replacements for Lewandowski. Kane in particular would suit Bayern's system, and Bayern CEO Oliver Kahn admitted last week it would be a "dream" signing – while at the same time completely dismissing a move for wantaway Manchester United forward Cristiano Ronaldo.

With another couple of years to run on Kane's contract, however, and Tottenham demanding a nine-figure sum from Manchester City this time last year, the Bavarians would have to spend big to bring in the England international.

For a club that has only once spent in excess of €40m on an attacking player – Leroy Sane from Manchester City two years ago – and having already splashed the cash to bring in Mane from Liverpool, that seems unlikely to happen.

 

There is more than goals alone to judging just how good a striker is, of course, and some players are certainly more attainable than others. Look no further than Sasa Kalajdzic, who boasts a number of qualities suited to Nagelsmann, not least his presence in the box.

At six foot and seven inches, Kalajdzic is one of the tallest players around and knows how to put that to good use, with exactly half of his 22 Bundesliga goals coming via his head.

Despite playing just 22 top-flight matches since his Stuttgart debut at the end of the 2019-20 season, those 11 headed goals are bettered only by Andre Silva (12) and – him again – Lewandowski (13), who have played 45 and 83 games in that period respectively.

Kalajdzic may have missed most of last season through injury, but six goals in 15 games for a side involved in a relegation scrap suggests he is a player with plenty of potential and, just as importantly, likely to be gettable, as Stuttgart director Sven Mislintat recently admitted given the 25-year-old is out of contract next year.

 

MANE AND GNABRY TO STEP UP?

Away from the dream options and outside picks to take over from Lewandowski, Kahn himself said last week that in Mane his side already have a ready-made replacement.

Position wise that is not technically true, of course, but there is no doubt that Mane's goals return across his six seasons with Liverpool was mightily impressive.

With 120 goals in all competitions for Liverpool, he averaged a goal every 189 minutes – exactly one every two matches. Mane also assisted 37 goals, meaning he was directly involved in a goal every 137 minutes. 

In the Premier League, only Kane (134), former team-mate Mohamed Salah (118) and Leicester City's Jamie Vardy (104) scored more goals than Mane (90) over the course of his Liverpool career.

 

Unlike with Liverpool's front three, Bayern have been used to having one focal point up top in Lewandowski.

Serge Gnabry, who recently signed a contract extension at the Allianz Arena, can also play through the middle if called upon, and has done so to good effect for the Germany national side.

If reports from the German media are to be believed, that is the route Nagelsmann will have to go down for the 2022-23 season until a big-name number nine can be recruited further down the line.

Whether it will work will be intriguing to see, with the only certainty in all this being that Bayern can no longer turn to go-to man Lewandowski in their time of need.

Stuttgart coach Pellegrino Matarazzo described his feelings of "ecstasy" after his side's Bundesliga survival was secured with a last-gasp 2-1 final-day win over Cologne.

VfB were destined for a relegation play-off entering injury time on Saturday with the scoreline locked at 1-1, despite rivals Hertha Berlin trailing at Borussia Dortmund.

Stuttgart needed only one goal to be sure of Bundesliga safety and, with goalkeeper Florian Muller – whose error had put them in such peril – up for a corner, it belatedly arrived.

Wataru Endo headed the 92nd-minute winner that sparked scenes of mass celebration and condemned Hertha to the play-off – not that Matarazzo knew the identity of his hero amid the carnage.

The coach raced onto the pitch along with his substitutes – and Stuttgart mascot Fritzle, a giant, fluffy crocodile.

"I don't even remember who scored the goal," Matarazzo told Sky Sport. "I don't remember what happened.

"Suddenly, I only see that Fritzle is lying on me. It was a nice moment for all players, for all the fans and everyone part of the club."

Stuttgart were grateful to Dortmund for their role in the escape, with Hertha having led until past the hour mark at the Westfalenstadion, when the departing Erling Haaland equalised.

"The boys certainly noticed the result," Matarazzo said. "With every goal Dortmund scored, the players had more courage.

"It was an absolute goal of will at the end. I'm very happy for the boys."

He added: "I’ve got a headache after all that shouting and cheering. That was ecstasy, a great moment, outstanding. I'm so happy for the lads. You never forget a moment like today."

Bayern Munich head coach Julian Nagelsmann says it was a "nice feeling" to lift the Meisterschale after the Bundesliga champions were held to a 2-2 draw by Stuttgart at the Allianz Arena on Sunday.

Goals from Tiago Tomas and Sasa Kalajdzic either side of strikes from Serge Gnabry and Thomas Muller secured a point for the visitors, while both teams missed other gilt-edged chances to seal a win in Sunday's exciting contest.

Bayern winger Kingsley Coman was sent off in stoppage time at the end of the game for reacting to a challenge from Konstantinos Mavropanos, but it made no difference to the outcome.

The draw means that Stuttgart can still save themselves from 16th place and a relegation play-off spot in the final round of Bundesliga matches next week.

If Pellegrino Matarazzo's men can beat Cologne at Mercedes-Benz Arena, they will leapfrog Hertha Berlin should Felix Magath's side lose at Borussia Dortmund.

Bayern were presented with the Meisterschale on Sunday after winning the title at Dortmund two weeks ago, and Nagelsmann savoured celebrating winning the title for the first time.

"From a head coach's point of view, the game against Dortmund was obviously more important, but when you then hold the trophy in your hands, it's a nice feeling," Nagelsmann told reporters after the presentation. 

"For the fans it was a good game, both teams wanted to win. It was entertaining, with many chances. We did many things well with the ball. Overall, we didn't defend well in phases after losing the ball. We gave away too many chances."

 

Bayern captain Manuel Neuer says it was special to be lift the trophy in front of fans after being unable to do so last season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"We are happy that we can now hold the trophy in our hands, show it to our fans and celebrate with them," Neuer said. "The last times fans weren't here, so it was very important that the fans were there again. Today, unfortunately not everything worked. The result is not what we wanted."

The 3-1 defeat at Mainz last week coupled with this result meant Bayern have claimed just one point since winning the league, and have conceded five goals in those two games, the same as they shipped in the nine games prior to that.

Matarazzo was pleased with his team's performance, noting in particular their bravery as Stuttgart created 15 chances.

"There was a lot of heart in it. I am very happy with the point," he said. "We were in the game from the first minute. It was good to take the lead, then we dropped a bit too deep and too far away from the opponents.

"Against Bayern, you simply have to survive their chances sometimes. In the first half, we had chances to calm the game down. We didn't take advantage of that. We wanted to be brave and we were."

A fighting performance from Stuttgart earned them a 2-2 draw against Bayern Munich, giving Pellegrino Matarazzo's team a chance of avoiding a relegation play-off with one round of matches remaining in the Bundesliga.

Goals from Tiago Tomas and Sasa Kalajdzic either side of strikes from Serge Gnabry and Thomas Muller secured a point at the Allianz Arena, while both teams missed other gilt-edged chances to seal a win in an exciting contest on Sunday.

Stuttgart still sit in 16th place, three points behind Hertha Berlin in 15th, but have a significantly superior goal difference, and so will be safe if they can beat Cologne at home next week and Hertha lose at Borussia Dortmund.

Already crowned champions Bayern – who had Kingsley Coman sent off late on – fielded a strong team and had plenty of opportunities, but some chaotic defending provided Stuttgart with enough chances to take a point.

 

Stuttgart took a surprise lead in the eighth minute when Kalajdzic flicked a header into the path of Omar Marmoush, whose low cross from the right was powerfully side-footed into the roof of the net from the edge of the box by Tomas.

Bayern were level in the 35th minute after the ball was worked out to Gnabry, who cut inside Borna Sosa before firing a shot across goal that appeared to be going in anyway before it was inadvertently sent over the line by Konstantinos Mavropanos.

Julian Nagelsmann's men were then ahead just before the break as Muller took a pass from Dayot Upamecano and turned beautifully before prodding the ball into the net low to the goalkeeper's left.

The relegation strugglers were level seven minutes into the second half after Kalajdzic rose above Tanguy Nianzou to thunder in a header off a dinked cross by Sosa, and Austria international should have put Stuttgart in front moments later when played in on goal, but he slid a tame effort into the hands of Neuer.

Substitute Philipp Forster also had an opportunity to be a hero just after coming on but he dragged his left-footed effort wide after getting on the end of a Kalajdzic flick, while Robert Lewandowski had his first real chance of the game with 14 minutes remaining, but saw his shot deflected onto the bar.

The hosts also lost Coman to a red card in stoppage time after the winger reacted to a Mavropanos challenge as the game ended all square.

Julian Nagelsmann says Thomas Muller's new contract sends a "positive signal" and hopes other Bayern Munich players follow suit.

Long-serving forward Muller this week extended his deal with the Bundesliga champions until 2024.

Robert Lewandowski, Manuel Neuer and Serge Gnabry are only under contract with the Bavarian giants until the end of next season, while Corentin Tolisso and Niklas Sule are nearing the end of their deals, with the latter set to join Borussia Dortmund as a free agent ahead of 2022-23.

Bayern boss Nagelsmann says it was vital to keep Muller and believes the 32-year-old's decision to commit his future to the club may prompt some of his team-mates to stay.

He said in a press conference on Friday: "It was very important that he extended, this will also send a positive signal to people both within the club and outside of the club.

"It could mean others will follow suit now. I'm really happy about it."

Bayern face relegation-threatened Stuttgart in their final home game of the season at the Allianz Arena on Sunday.

The champions will be presented with the Meisterschale trophy and Nagelsmann wants his side to put on a show in front of a sell-out crowd.

He said: "I want to win the game, even though I have a lot of respect for Pellegrino Matarazzo as a man and as a coach.

"We will give our all to try and win our final home game in front of a sold-out Arena this season."

Stuttgart are 16th in the table and battling to avoid the drop but Nagelsmann says they can pose a threat.

He added: "They're a very versatile team. They can set up in a number of different ways. Matarazzo has some creative ideas. They're in a tough situation as they fight relegation. They've had a number of injuries at key moments this season."

In the past 38 seasons, Bayern have lost their final Bundesliga home game only once and it was Stuttgart who inflicted that defeat on them, winning 4-1 in 2018.

Victor Osimhen has netted 11 goals in all competitions, prompting admiration from some top clubs.

The Napoli striker is valued at around €80million by the Serie A leaders.

Manchester United are understood to be interested in Osimhen.

TOP STORY – REAL TO RIVAL MAN UTD FOR OSIMHEN

The race for Napoli forward Osimhen is heating up with Real Madrid joining United in pursuit of his signature, according to Calciomercato.

Osimhen's Napoli contract does not expire until 2025 but both clubs are ready to flex their muscles and move for him in the off-season transfer window.

The 23-year-old forward's stock has risen dramatically since Napoli signed him for €70m from Lille in 2020.

ROUND-UP

- Inter are lining up a move for Borussia Monchengladbach's Marcus Thuram as they prepare for Lautaro Martinez to be prized away amid interest from Manchester City, claims The Sun.

- Nicolo Schira claims that Milan have agreed personal terms with Lille defender and Newcastle United target Sven Botman, who has been lured by a five-year deal.

- Barcelona are set to join the race for Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves, who has interest from Arsenal and Manchester United, reports the Mail.

- The Express claims that Aston Villa are interested in manager Steven Gerrard's ex-Liverpool team-mate Luis Suarez along with Milan's Franck Kessie .

- Teenage England international Jude Bellingham has opted to remain with Borussia Dortmund for one more season, claims Bild.

- Kicker claims that Roma have joined the pursuit for Stuttgart's Sasa Kalajdzic along with Tottenham, West Ham, Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig .

- West Ham are interested in Bristol City striker Antoine Semenyo, according to The Mirror, while Celtic are also tracking him.

Julian Nagelsmann hailed the "outstanding" Serge Gnabry after he scored a hat-trick in Bayern Munich's 5-0 thrashing of Stuttgart.

Gnabry marked his first start for almost a month with a superb display, helping himself to a treble and laying on the other two goals for Robert Lewandowski in the city where he was born.

The Germany forward gave Bayern a 1-0 half-time lead and they ran riot after the break, scoring three times in the space of five minutes behind closed doors at Mercedes-Benz Arena on Tuesday.

Gnabry was directly involved in five goals in a competitive match for only the second time in his career, with the only previous instance coming in the 7-2 win at Tottenham in October 2019 - when he scored four and provided one assist

Victory in Julian Nagelsmann's 200th Bundesliga match as a head coach put the champions nine points clear at the top of the table.

Nagelsmann lauded Gnabry, who has had to bide his time to force his way back into the team after a spell in quarantine and has also been hampered by an injury.

The Bayern head coach said: "He is an outstanding player who is currently struggling with his back and therefore maybe gets a tad less minutes than he deserves.

"He did very, very well today."

It was another devastating performance from the Bavarian giants, but there was concern when they lost Kingsley Coman to an injury in the first half

Nagelsmann said of the France winger: "We don't have an exact diagnosis for him yet. It's a muscular issue. We're hoping that it's nothing serious."

Lewandowski's double took him level with the great Gerd Muller on a record 41 goals in a calendar year in the German top flight.

Serge Gnabry scored a hat-trick and laid on a double for Robert Lewandowski as Bayern Munich moved nine points clear at the top of the Bundesliga with a 5-0 thrashing of Stuttgart.

Gnabry, making his first start for almost a month, opened the scoring in the first half and clinically doubled the champions lead after the break behind closed doors at Mercedes-Benz Arena on Tuesday.

The outstanding Gnabry then set Lewandowski up twice and completed his treble as the leaders ran riot in Julian Nagelsmann's 200th Bundesliga match as coach, scoring three times in the space of five second-half minutes.

Bayern lost Kingsley Coman to an apparent hamstring injury, but cruised to a sixth consecutive victory in all competitions.

Gnabry was a livewire from the start and he flashed an early shot across the face of the Stuttgart goal before Lewandowski fired straight at goalkeeper Florian Muller.

Omar Marmoush dragged a tame strike wide against the run of play before Gnabry put the champions in front, finding the back of the net with a classy first-time right-foot finish after Leroy Sane - on for the injured Coman - set him up five minutes before the break.

Stuttgart showed plenty of endeavour following the interval but Gnabry struck again in the 53rd minute, taking a pass from Thomas Muller and beating Marc Oliver Kempf before calmly slotting home with his left foot.

Gnabry then turned provider, picking out Lewandowski with a superb pass which the striker controlled on his chest and raced into the box before nonchalantly lifting the ball over the advancing Stuttgart keeper and into the net.

The same pair combined again as Lewandowski was on hand to slot home inside the six-yard box from a Gnabry cross.

Gnabry then capped a brilliant performance by tucking in from close range after the busy Muller could only palm into his path with 16 minutes to go.

Bayern Munich head coach Julian Nagelsmann is hopeful Joshua Kimmich's declaration that he is ready to take a COVID-19 vaccine will draw a line under the matter.

Kimmich made headlines in October when he explained he was not willing to receive his first dose due to what he perceived as a lack of research into possible long-term effects.

The 26-year-old has not featured for Bayern since November 6 after twice being forced to isolate due to being a close contact of someone who tested positive for coronavirus.

He was then infected with COVID-19 himself and was last week ruled out until 2022 due to an issue with his lungs.

Kimmich confirmed in an interview with ZDF on Sunday that he is now in a position where he feels ready to get vaccinated.

Nagelsmann, who was himself struck down by the illness, is pleased with Kimmich's announcement but insisted he did not sway the midfielder's decision.

"I think it's good that he faced the media. A lot has been reported about him in the last few weeks," Nagelsmann said on Monday. 

"I gave him my opinion, but in the end his conviction was a result of talks with other people at the club. I rather try to work on the pitch."

Nagelsmann, who has been regularly questioned on the topic over the past two months, added: "I think it's funny I'm still being asked! 

"When the year 2021 comes to an end, I hope that we will be able to deal with the pandemic subject more briefly because we can master the situation."

 

Bayern will be without Kimmich for their final two Bundesliga games of the year, while Jamal Musiala is also doubtful to face Stuttgart on Tuesday and Wolfsburg next weekend.

Musiala has scored in Bayern's last two games, including the decisive strike to see off Mainz 2-1 on Saturday, but a broken hand could keep him out of action until 2022.

"That depends on the pain," Nagelsmann said ahead of the trip to Stuttgart. "He has a splint and could theoretically play, but it's a pain issue. 

"We'll see how he moves today. We'll have to wait a few days and take another X-ray to see how to proceed with the treatment, whether it will be surgical or conservative."

Nagelsmann confirmed Leon Goretzka and Corentin Tolisso are also fitness doubts for Tuesday, but Marcel Sabitzer has returned to training and may be part of the squad.

Bayern have won 66 of their 104 Bundesliga matches against Stuttgart – no other team in Bundesliga history has won so often against a single opponent.  

The Bavarian giants have won 17 of their last 18 league meetings with Stuttgart, with the only exception being a 4-1 loss in May 2018.

Pellegrino Matarazzo's side have taken seven points from their last three games, however, and Nagelsmann is not anticipating an easy game in midweek.

"In terms of the table, they are not quite as good as they were last year," he said. "But it is incredibly difficult to prepare to face them.

"Their coach, who I know well, is a mathematician and that's how he approaches games. You cannot prepare for the way they will set up."

A draw for Bayern at Mercedes-Benz-Arena will ensure they sit top of the Bundesliga at the halfway point for the 15th time in the 16 seasons since the introduction of three points for a win.

Jon Dahl Tomasson almost won it all as a player.

A Champions League under iconic Italian boss Carlo Ancelotti at Milan, to go with Serie A, Coppa Italia and Coppa Italia honours. Add the UEFA Cup, Eredivisie and Johan Cruijff Shield during his time with Feyenoord.

Now, Tomasson finds himself at the helm of Swedish giants Malmo, who are embarking on their first Champions League group-stage campaign since 2015-16, after snapping the club's title drought in 2020.

Malmo – the most successful team in Sweden – had not won the Allsvenskan since 2017, however Tomasson delivered the trophy in his first season at Eleda Stadion, an achievement culminating in him being named Manager of the Year.

After ending Malmo's domestic wait last term, Malmo will face holders Chelsea, Italian powerhouses Juventus and Russian giants Zenit in Group H after Tomasson guided the 1978-79 European Cup runners-up through the qualifying rounds as the 45-year-old's coaching career continues to gather momentum.

Tomasson is set to take charge of his first Champions League match as a coach, having appeared as a player 42 times in the competition between 1997 and 2005 for Newcastle, Feyenoord and Milan. His last game came in the 2005 final against Liverpool, scoring one of Milan's two successful penalties in the shoot-out defeat.

"Before we qualified for the Champions League, we're allowed to dream big. Now we're there," Tomasson told Stats Perform, ahead of Malmo's matchday-one showdown at home to Juve on Tuesday.

"In a way, it's a dream which we should live. At the end of the day, we have ambitions as well. We know we play against very good clubs. We're the biggest club in Scandinavia, but it is a lot to do with money. We can't compare to each other. But we beat Rangers and Ludogorets. The other clubs are also very big.

"Hopefully we can upset a few people. We are ambitious and will do our best, being well prepared. We have a great team spirit. In that way, we can achieve some upsets. We have to be realistic also. We will live that fairytale."

"I won the Champions League and UEFA Cup, also lost a Champions League final," said Tomasson, whose Malmo saw off Riga FC and HJK before upstaging Scottish champions Rangers and Bulgarian titleholders Ludogorets en route to the group phase. "But seeing the boys working together, coping with difficult moments in the game. It makes you proud as a coach. I'm really satisfied so far. It gives me satisfaction for sure.

Tomasson's career as a striker was a successful one – the 45-year-old remains Denmark's all-time leading goalscorer (52) alongside Poul Nielsen. Twice named Danish Player of the Year, the former Heerenveen, Newcastle, Feyenoord, Milan, Stuttgart and Villarreal frontman called time on his career 2011.

Tomasson's coaching career officially started at Excelsior as an assistant before a brief stint in charge of the Dutch side, followed by a short spell at Roda JC in the Netherlands.

"Each experience gives you something, whether it is successful or unsuccessful," he said. "As a person and a coach you'll learn from that. It's a part of getting an education down the road and it's an education that will never stop."

However, Tomasson's journey started long before he stopped playing.

"It came quite natural [coaching]," he said. "I had been captain of the Denmark national team for many years. Then you get a bit of responsibility, you start thinking in a different way. You think about the team, it's not just 'me, me, me'. In a way it started quite early, thinking about tactical things.

"I was also a very young boy when I went to Holland and Holland is of course a country which likes to develop young people and football players. I can remember my manager Foppe de Haan, he brought me to games, to analyse games, to develop as a person and football head should develop. I was going with him to games. I was analysing them.

"In a way, I also tried to do a bit of that at Malmo, I was a bit inspired.  All of our youngsters, they are analysing and making presentations for the technical staff so they start to think about football in a different way. Also, to come out of their comfort zone. Make it a bit tough of them to deal with new things."

"I love football, I eat football if it's possible. I had a lot of great coaches during my football career. I had some big coaching names, like Ancelotti, [Manuel] Pellegrini, Bert van Marwijk, Leo Beenhakker. All of those coaches, they give you inspiration," Tomasson continued.

Tomasson, who left boyhood club Koge for Heerenveen in 1994, has been inspired by his journey across Europe.

"I started as a young boy in Holland, so I have a lot of inspiration for the Dutch school," he said. "But I've been in Italy, Spain, Germany and England, so I'm more inspired through an international way of thinking. Football is of course a game, you win it with the head. It's chess on grass.

"Malmo, we want to be dominant with and without the ball. Very flexible with our tactical approach, with different formations and be able to change during games."

Tomasson's Malmo have been dominant under the Dane, who made the short trip across the Oresund Strait after leaving his position as assistant coach of Denmark.

Malmo clinched the league crown by nine points last term and scored a league-high 64 goals in 30 matches – their best return since netting the same amount in 1965.

"When I was working with Denmark for three-and-a-half years, in a way, it was tough to just leave," Tomasson added. "Working with the best players. We were unbeaten for three years also and had great team spirit. It was tough. But the project at Malmo was so ambitious. It was a tough but very easy decision to make because it's a very interesting project. It suits me well.

"It's been very successful but also say surprising but not at all, we tried to plan it. I was appointed to change things, to change the age of the group, to play a more attractive way, dominant with the ball. Get more youngsters into the team and develop those boys and still win something because at Malmo, it's a club with big ambition – one of the biggest in Scandinavia. The biggest at the moment because we're playing in the Champions League. Historically, it's a very big club but didn't win anything for three years, so it was very important to win the league last season. You need to win, qualify for Europe, develop players. Quite ambitious but I like those ambitious.

"We managed to change a lot in a positive way. Develop those youngers, who we need to sell as well. Play a more modern way of football. It's been a perfect journey so far, winning the silverware last season and now qualifying for the Champions League.

"It's a terrific achievement for the club – being among those 32 teams. It's like football heaven, a dream come true. Try to deal with those things coming up. Winning four qualifying rounds before actually going into the Champions League isn't easy. Winning away to Rangers with 10 men and playing against Ludogorets, a team with a totally different budget to us. At the end of the day, money decides a lot of things in football."

As Tomasson's coaching reputation grows in Europe, what does the future hold for the 112-time former international?

"It's okay to dream big, but it's also difficult to plan anything as a manager. I work hard every day to become better. At the moment, I'm looking forward to play this Champions League with Malmo. We also want to win the title like we did last season."

"Every manager has their own path to walk. It's difficult to plan. You can't plan it, so you jump on the train when you need to," he continued.

As a club, previous form is against Malmo – they have lost 83 per cent of their Champions League matches (P12 W2 D0 L10). It is the joint-highest losing percentage of sides to have played at least 10 matches in the competition, alongside Maccabi Tel Aviv and Rapid Vienna.

Malmo have only scored three goals in their last 10 Champions League games, failing to score in eight of the fixtures in this run. Meanwhile, the Swedish side have conceded a total of 34 goals across those 10 matches at an average of 3.4 per game.

But Tomasson's new-look Malmo – who boast 15 players aged 25 or younger in the squad – continue to impress in 2021. Di Blae have only lost one of their past 28 home fixtures in the league, dating back to August 2019, while the Champions League – albeit in the qualifying rounds – they are eight matches unbeaten on home soil.

Antonio Colak has flourished since arriving on loan from PAOK – the Croatian forward scored five of Malmo's 13 goals in qualifying, making him the highest scoring player for any team during the qualification rounds.

The likes of younger pair Veljko Birmancevic (23) and Anel Ahmedhodzic (22) have also starred, developing further under Tomasson's watchful eye.

"He's done well," Tomasson said of new signing Birmancevic, who arrived from Serbian side Cukaricki in the offseason and has scored 11 goals this term, including four in the Champions League qualifying rounds. "The whole team have done an excellent job. He's a young boy. He is coping with a new country and way of playing, with different mentality and manager. But slowly, you can see the progress he has made. A very talented player with special skills and skills we love - goals, one against one, speed. Each team are searching for that quality."

On Bosnia-Herzegovina international centre-back Ahmedhodzic, Tomasson added: "When I arrived here, the first thing I did was put him into the team. He had been on loan in Denmark. Now he is playing for his national team. A great player, a good central defender with a great foot. A player I like. You need to defend as well but also quality on the ball if you want to dominate like I want to."

A youthful Liverpool side played out a 1-1 draw with Wacker Innsbruck in their first 30-minute friendly in Austria before a stronger Reds side were held to the same scoreline by Stuttgart.

Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and new signing Ibrahima Konate were included in the line-up for the second shortened friendly against the Bundesliga side, while fit-again Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joel Matip and January signing Ben Davies featured for the younger team against Innsbruck.

Alexander-Arnold returned to the playing squad for the first time since suffering a thigh injury on England duty in June against Austria, which subsequently ruled him out of the Three Lions' Euro 2020 campaign that ended in shoot-out heartbreak to Italy.

Divock Origi opened the scoring with a spot-kick in the first game as the Belgian forward profited from a handball that came from full-back Owen Beck's cross.

But Origi's penalty was swiftly cancelled out by Ronivaldo's header past Loris Karius and that meant it was honours even between Jurgen Klopp's men and the Austrian side.

In the follow-up game against Stuttgart, Philipp Forster capped a slick move off to give Pellegrino Matarazzo's men the lead as he finished past Adrian inside the opening 10 minutes.

Liverpool, though, responded through Mane, who squeezed a shot in from close range after Kostas Tsimikas had initially got on the end of James Milner's cross.

And with neither team finding a winner inside 30 minutes, the Reds had to settle for two draws in their two run-outs at their camp in Austria.

Klopp's team next face Mainz on Friday before friendlies against Hertha Berlin, Athletic Bilbao and Osasuna round off their pre-season preparations.

After 16 years, Sergio Ramos is moving on from Real Madrid.

The 35-year-old is far from finished, though, as his wage demands indicate.

His next club will have to meet high salary expectations. 

 

TOP STORY – BIG CLUBS IN MIX FOR RAMOS

Manchester City has been in contact with Ramos' representatives for some time, AS reported, and the Premier League champions should be able to handle the Spaniard's reported €12million annual salary demands. 

That number figures to limit the number of serious contenders to sign the superstar centre-back, with Manchester United also reportedly in the mix. 

Paris Saint-Germain could also turn to Ramos after failing to find a suitable replacement for Thiago Silva in central defence. 

 

ROUND-UP

- Bernardo Silva's agent has had talks with Barcelona and Atletico Madrid over a move to LaLiga for the Manchester City man, the Daily Mail says. 

- Juventus lead the race to sign Euro 2020 star Manuel Locatelli, Fabrizio Romano reports, with Sassuolo seeking a fee of around €40million (£34m). 

- Chelsea's Emerson Palmieri is Napoli's top target during this transfer window, Gazzetta dello Sport reports, with the Blues seeking a €15m (£13m) fee. 

- Everton face competition from Inter in their pursuit of PSV Eindhoven defender and Netherlands international Denzel Dumfries, according to Voetbal International. 

- Milan star Gianluigi Donnarumma will join PSG on a five-year contract, Romano reports, adding that the 22-year-old goalkeeper is expected to undergo his medical Monday in Florence. 

- Brighton have agreed a £25m fee with Stuttgart for forward Nicolas Gonzalez, the Guardian reports, while Sky Sports says the Seagulls rejected Arsenal's £40m bid for England international Ben White

- Arsenal are also in pursuit of Porto winger Jesus Corona along with Sevilla and Fiorentina, according to the Daily Mail. 

Is Erling Haaland's future close to being resolved?

Borussia Dortmund, up until now, have been unwilling to part with their top asset.

But Chelsea are reportedly making progress to bring Haaland to London.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA CLOSING IN ON HAALAND?

Chelsea have agreed personal terms with Erling Haaland and now just need to agree a fee with Borussia Dortmund, according to the Transfer Window Podcast.

Haaland is a player in demand, linked with Chelsea, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Barcelona, Liverpool, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Juventus.

But Chelsea have reportedly made a breakthrough in their pursuit to prise the Norway forward to Stamford Bridge.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sport claims Madrid are targeting Inter star Nicolo Barella or Sassuolo's Manuel Locatelli. Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips has also been linked. Locatelli is attracting interest this off-season, with Juventus, Arsenal, Inter, Dortmund and City reported admirers.

Arsenal are chasing Leicester City's James Maddison, according to Chris Wheatley. Chelsea and Liverpool are believed to be also tracking the England international.

- Eurosport reports Real Sociedad winger Mikel Oyarzabal is on City's radar. Pep Guardiola's side could make a move if Bernardo Silva – linked with Barcelona and Atletico Madrid – or Raheem Sterling leave.

Atletico are set to sign Rodrigo De Paul from Udinese, says Fabrizio Romano. The Argentina international has been wanted by Liverpool, Juve and Leeds United.

Milan are looking to sign Stuttgart forward Sasa Kalajdzic, according to Calciomercato. Chelsea's Olivier Giroud, Torino star Andrea Belotti and Madrid outcast Luka Jokic have also been linked.

- Bild claims Bayern would be willing to sell Kingsley Coman for the right price amid interest from United and Liverpool. The Bundesliga champions are also considering the futures of Niklas Sule and Corentin Tolisso.

Stuttgart footballer Silas Wamangituka has revealed his real name is Silas Katompa Mvumpa, claiming he has been playing under a false identity on the instruction of a former agent.

Silas, who can play on the wing or up front, scored 11 Bundesliga goals for Stuttgart in 2020-21, contributing four assists before his season ended by an anterior cruciate ligament injury.

It was his second campaign with the club, Silas having joined from Paris FC ahead of the 2019-20 season.

On Tuesday, Stuttgart announced their star man from the Democratic Republic of Congo had been playing under a name which was not his own.

Stuttgart said Silas had informed them that a former agent pushed him to change his name and forged false documentation, which also made the player appear a year younger, as his date of birth was switched from October 6, 1998 to October 6, 1999.

"Over the past few years, I was constantly living in fear and was also very worried for my family in Congo," said Silas in a club statement.

"It was a tough step for me to take to make my story public and I would never have had the courage to do so if Stuttgart, my team and VfB had not become like a second home and a safe place to me."

Stuttgart's statement explained how Silas, in 2017, had a trial with Belgian club Anderlecht.

Silas had received a visa to travel to Belgium, under his correct name. Anderlecht, interested in signing the youngster, instructed Silas to return to Congo and return with a new visa in order to sign his contract.

"As this situation unfolded, an agent is said to have put Silas under considerable pressure in Belgium and convinced him that he would not be allowed to return to Europe if he left Belgium and went back to Congo," Stuttgart said in their statement.

"Silas trusted the agent and went to live with him in Paris. He then changed his identity and papers were created for him in the name of Silas Wamangituka [one of the names of his father] and with a date of birth that was exactly one year different from his own."

Silas did not sign for Anderlecht, beginning his career in Europe with French minnows Ales.

Stuttgart sporting director Thomas Hitzlsperger said: "First and foremost, Silas has been the victim of this change of name.

"I have the greatest respect for the fact that at a young age, he has taken the brave step to clarify his situation. We will continue to give him all the help he needs in absolutely every respect."

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