Zlatan Ibrahimovic has revealed he urged Kylian Mbappe to leave his comfort zone and join Real Madrid after being approached for advice by the Paris Saint-Germain forward. 

Mbappe was the subject of two big-money bids from Madrid in the last transfer window and recently revealed he asked PSG to grant him a move away.

The France international is out of contract at the end of the season and continues to be linked with a free transfer to the Santiago Bernabeu.

He has spent five seasons with PSG, the first of those on an initial loan from fellow Ligue 1 side Monaco, whom he represented for two campaigns.

More than six years after bursting onto the scene, former PSG striker Ibrahimovic believes it is time for Mbappe to test himself in a new league.

"Only Kylian can answer you about where he has to go. It depends on what he wants, what he thinks," Ibrahimovic told L'Equipe.

"Me, I would have gone. But if I am PSG, I would try to keep him. It's him who will decide. PSG want to keep him, obviously, but does he want to stay?

"I also think that there are other clubs that want him: if you are a manager, and you have the means and you do not want to take Mbappe, you are in the wrong business. 

"He asked me [for advice], yes, and I told him: 'If I were you, I would go to Real'.

"I had the chance to play in different teams, different countries, with different champions, and that's how I learned and grew. 

"Playing at home all your career is easier, in my opinion. Whereas if you pack your bags and go to other places, it's an adventure."

Ibrahimovic himself spent four seasons with PSG and scored 156 goals, a tally bettered only by Edinson Cavani (200) in the club's list of all-time goalscorers.

Mbappe is fast closing in on Ibrahimovic in that regard as he has 151 goals in 198 appearances for the Parisians in all competitions since his debut in September 2017.

That is the fourth-most of any player from Europe's top five leagues across that period, behind Cristiano Ronaldo (158), Lionel Messi (168) and Robert Lewandowski (212).

 

While Mbappe is a guaranteed starter for PSG when available, goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma has struggled to hold down a place in the side since joining from Milan.

Donnarumma played a key part in Italy's Euro 2020 triumph and impressed across six years at San Siro, but he has had to share goalkeeping duties with Keylor Navas this term.

That has come as a shock to Milan striker Ibrahimovic, who spent two and a half years playing in the same side as the Italian stopper.

"I am very surprised. But I know it's not easy for the coach, and I know Navas is a great goalkeeper too," he said.

"They have two phenomena in goal. In my world, Donnarumma is the number one today.

"I don't know if it's good to alternate goalkeepers, or if it's more of a favour you do to one of them. I'm used to having a goalkeeper who is number one and is always the same. 

"And about Donnarumma there is no question: he is the best in the world, and that's that. I played with him, I know what I'm talking about."

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 .

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel has not ruled out making a signing in the remainder of the January transfer window, but stopped short of making any guarantees.

The Blues have seen their title charge come to a grinding halt in recent games, having not won any of their last four Premier League outings and only claiming victory twice from their last nine.

They now sit 12 points behind leaders Manchester City having played a game more, and a point behind second-placed Liverpool having played two games more.

When asked at a news conference ahead of Sunday's game against Tottenham whether any January additions are likely, Tuchel replied: "I cannot say no to it. Also, I am not convinced it is a clear yes. Let's wait and see."

The game with Spurs at Stamford Bridge will be Chelsea's 16th since the start of December, and Tuchel believes that the hectic schedule coupled with injuries has played a significant part in his team's drop in form.

"The schedule that we had in particular was a bit too much," he said. "At the same time we struggled with injuries, first in midfield then in the second period it was strikers and now it's suddenly all defenders who are out. Yeah, it's a bit awkward.

"We struggled to deal with it and find the same rhythm, find the same consistency in our results... but still the way we played and approached the games was always okay."

Following a 1-0 defeat at Manchester City last weekend and a 1-1 draw at Brighton on Tuesday, the former Borussia Dortmund coach gave his players two days off in preparation for the Spurs game, and confessed that he spent his time at the dentist.

"You really disconnect at the dentist," he said. "It is hard to think about football when you are in the dentist chair.

"We needed [a break]. And I meant all of us. This is a team effort and I felt that the team was mentally tired, which I could understand. I felt them disappointed and frustrated after the result at City and it was harder for us to overcome the obstacles that for us are normal to overcome.

"There are reasons for it. Reasons that we talked about, reasons for which we cannot be blamed.

"I know it is always like this and we don’t want to make excuses, but we want to be adult enough and honest enough to look at the reasons why we feel this kind of fatigue."

Antonio Rudiger insists he is "fully committed to the cause" at Chelsea even though there are no guarantees he will sign a new contract.

The centre-back is free to negotiate with foreign clubs as his deal expires at the end of the season, with Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid among the teams said to be interested.

According to some reports, Rudiger, who turns 29 in March, wants to be made the highest-paid defender in the Premier League if he is to stay at Stamford Bridge.

Negotiations over a new deal appear to have stalled, but the Germany international says his commitment to the club will not waver even while talks drag on.

"Like always, I'm fully committed to the cause," he told Sky Sports.

"Talks are between my side and the club, and that's everything you need to know."

Rudiger also denied the suggestion that it would be difficult to focus on performing well for Chelsea for the rest of the season amid the uncertainty.

He said: "Yes, I find it easy to do. I'm not just saying words, I'm fully committed to the cause. I think I've always shown that.

"There were worse times than this, so that's why for me, I've found it easy to deal with. I'm focused on what is happening here and on the pitch.

"I owe it to everyone here around the club, the coach, my team-mates and my family, so that's why I'm only focused about the important things.

"The other things are speculation – I cannot say anything about that."

One thing Rudiger made clear is that his family are very happy in London and that they would inevitably be a key factor in deciding his next move.

"You need to listen to the missus," he said. "You have to think about your family. My kids were born here in London so that tells you that my family feel great here.

"The rest is up to other people to make decisions, and then we will see if we come together or not."

Rudiger has made 179 appearances for Chelsea in all competitions since joining from Roma in 2017.

He has won four trophies with the club, including the Champions League and the UEFA Super Cup in 2021.

Thomas Tuchel has spoken of his admiration for Ousmane Dembele amid reports the Barcelona outcast could be a transfer target for Chelsea.

Dembele looks to be on his way out of Barca due to a contract stand-off that has turned sour.

The France winger warned the Catalan giants that he would not be "giving in to any blackmail" after Barca director Mateu Alemany ordered him to find a new club "immediately".

Dembele is only under contract with the Blaugrana until the end of the season and Alemany declared he expects the 24-year-old to move on before the transfer window closes at the of this month as "we want to have players committed to the project."

Tuchel saw Dembele's talent first-hand when he played under the Blues boss at Borussia Dortmund in the 2016-17 season before the former Rennes man joined Barca for an initial fee of €105million.

 

The Barca contract rebel's chances created per game average of 2.36 this season is better than any of the Chelsea squad who can play in the same position, while his dribbles completed (6.69) also compares favourably.

Dembele has also had more shots per game (4.46) and made more crosses from open play (6.69) than the likes of Hakim Ziyech, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Christian Pulisic.

And while Tuchel stopped short of declaring his interest in his former player, the Chelsea head coach is well aware of what he is capable of.

"He is a very good player when he is at his top level," Tuchel said. "I am very fortunate to have trained him in my time at Dortmund.

"It was only one year; it should have been longer. I needed to leave and he decided to leave. From there we are not in closest contact.

"We met here and there because of his duties for the French national team and of course I was in Paris so this was more or less when they were preparing for national duties."

Chelsea face a big Premier League derby with Tottenham at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

Fiorentina are open to selling Dusan Vlahovic in January but the Viola's director Joe Barone denied they have reached an agreement with Arsenal.

Mikel Arteta's Gunners are among a plethora of Europe's elite who are chasing the in-form striker in the mid-season transfer window, with Premier League champions Manchester City also linked.

Vlahovic has scored 17 times in 21 Serie A appearances, netting once every 109.5 minutes on average and comfortably outperforming his expected goals tally of 12.2, and his stock continues to rise.

The 21-year-old ended 2021 on a high as well, matching Cristiano Ronaldo's 21st-century record for most goals in the Italian top flight in a calendar year (33), set in 2020.

In fact, only Gunnar Nordahl in 1950 (36) has ever scored more times in a calendar year than Ronaldo and Vlahovic.

But Barone revealed Vlahovic's time in Tuscany will likely come to an end soon with the Serbia international unwilling to sign a new contract, with his current deal expiring at the end of the next season.

 

"Some English clubs have made contact, but there is no agreement yet. We are open [to selling]," Barone told Italian outlet La Nazione on Friday.

Barone previously asked Vlahovic to publicly state whether he wants to leave the club or not, while suggesting no bids had been made for the forward in the last week.

But the Fiorentina chief claimed he is still yet to hear from Vlahovic's entourage as the Viola reportedly hold out for €75million for their prized asset.

"I haven't heard anything from them, I had asked Vlahovic's agent to be clear, but I haven't heard anything, no contacts at all," he added.

Fiorentina sit sixth in Serie A on 35 points ahead of their next clash with Cagliari on Sunday.

Ousmane Dembele's future with Barcelona has been unclear for months.

The 24-year-old has snubbed a fresh contract extension offer at Barca.

On Thursday, it was confirmed the Blaugrana have subsequently put him up for sale in January.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA READY FOR DEMBELE MOVE

Chelsea are ready to make a January move for Barcelona's Dembele, claims The Sun.

France winger Dembele is out of contract at the end of this season and Barca now want him to leave this month.

Chelsea have interest in Dembele, although it is unclear if they want to sign him on loan or permanently.

 

ROUND-UP

- Roma are prepared to offer Jordan Veretout in exchange for Tottenham's Tanguy Ndombele, reports Gianluca Di Marzio. Goal and The Athletic claim that Paris Saint-Germain  are in talks with Spurs and Ndombele over a loan move.

- The Telegraph claims Tottenham are ready to make a January swoop for Milan's Franck Kessie, whose contract expires at the end of this season.

- Sevilla are still keen to sign Manchester United forward Anthony Martial on loan, according to Marca. The Spanish club had an initial offer rejected and could move for Lyon's Moussa Dembele as an alternative.

- Real Betis want to sign Manchester City full-back Oleksandr Zinchenko this month, with the lure of regular football, claims The Sun.

- Crystal Palace have pulled out of the race to sign Juventus midfielder Aaron Ramsey, reports the Daily Mail. Ramsey has had interest from Newcastle United, Wolves and Burnley.

Ousmane Dembele has reacted with fury after Barcelona director of football Mateu Alemany ordered the winger to find a new club "immediately".

French winger Dembele has struggled at Camp Nou since joining from Borussia Dortmund in 2017 for an initial €105million.

A string of injury setbacks have hampered his progress, although Barca head coach Xavi recently claimed Dembele could become the "best in the world" in his position.

Dembele's contract runs until the end of the season, meaning this month's transfer window could be the last opportunity for the club to get back any money on their investment.

Barcelona do not want to lose such an expensive signing on a free transfer, and to that end they have been looking to extend his deal, but Alemany said all offers to Dembele "have been continuously rejected by his agents".

Alemany added, speaking to Barca TV on Thursday: "It seems obvious that the player does not want to continue at Barcelona and is not committed to our future project."

This has incensed Dembele, with Alemany going on to say: "We told him and his agents that he must leave the club immediately because we want to have players committed to the project. We expect a transfer to take place before January 31."

Dembele has been linked with clubs including Liverpool, Paris Saint-Germain and Newcastle.

Responding to Barcelona's stance, Dembele issued a long statement on Instagram, saying he would not be "giving in to any blackmail".

The 24-year-old said he had put up with four years of reading lies about himself, declaring that claims had been made "with the sole purpose of harming me". He said it had been a mistake that he had not spoken out sooner.

"From today, I will answer with sincerity and without giving in to any blackmail," Dembele wrote. "I am 24 years old and like any man, I have faults, imperfections. I have known complex moments, injuries, I have been affected by COVID. Without any training, the coach called on me and I always answered present... without batting an eyelid.

"I appreciate the chance to do the best job in the world. Furthermore, my message is clear. I forbid anyone to pretend that I am not involved in the sports project. I forbid anyone to attribute to me intentions that I never had. I forbid anyone to speak in my place, [or] in place of my agent in whom I have complete confidence.

"Still under contract, I am fully concerned and at the disposal of my club, my coach. I have always given my all for my team-mates as well as for all the supporters... and this won't stop now."

Xavi has also told Dembele to sign or be sold, and the player who was acquired after the big-money departure of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain may have kicked his last ball for Barcelona. He was left out of the squad for Thursday's Copa del Rey last-16 tie with Athletic Bilbao.

Former Barcelona forward Antoine Griezmann responded with fire and heart emojis to Dembele's passionate statement.

"I am not a man who cheats and even less a man who has a habit of giving in to blackmail," Dembele added.

"As you know, there are negotiations. I let my agent take care of this, it is his field. My field is football, simply playing football, sharing moments of joy with my team-mates, with our supporters. Above all, let's focus on the essentials: WINNING."

FIFA has announced new regulations that will limit the number of players that can be loaned in and out in order to prevent clubs from "hoarding players".

The new rules were outlined by the governing body on Thursday and will come into effect from the start of the next transfer window should they be ratified by the FIFA Council

Teams will initially be limited to having a maximum of eight players loaned out and eight loaned in at any given time during a season. 

That number will drop to seven ahead of the 2023-24 season, and six from the start of the following campaign and beyond.

While that does not cover domestic loans, national associations have been asked by FIFA to bring their own regulations in line by July 2025 at the latest.

However, players aged 21 and younger and club-trained players will be exempt from these limitations.

In a further development, the number of players loaned in from the same club will be capped at three per season. 

And the minimum length for a loan deal will be between two transfer windows, while the maximum loan period will be one year.

FIFA hopes the new regulatory framework, delayed by two years due to the coronavirus pandemic, will help with player development and promote more competitiveness.

The regulations could have a major impact on the likes of Premier League pair Chelsea and Manchester City, who currently have 21 and 14 players out on loan respectively.

Ousmane Dembele's Barcelona career appears to be drawing to a close, with the club's director of football Mateu Alemany confirming on Thursday that he is up for sale.

Dembele's representatives have been in talks with Barca since July over a new contract for a player that arrived at Camp Nou in 2017 in the wake of Neymar's departure to Paris Saint-Germain.

Barca splashed the cash – €105million, to be exact – to bring the winger in from Borussia Dortmund, where he had enjoyed a wonderful campaign in 2016-17 after a move from Rennes.

Despite Xavi wanting to keep the player, an agreement between the club and Dembele's camp has not been reached and the stand-off has now resulted in Alemany publicly stating the France international will no longer play for Barca now he has turned down their latest offer.

 

Dembele has struggled to establish himself as a key player at Barca due to injuries and some reported attitude issues, albeit he has hardly been at Camp Nou during the most stable period.

He has managed 31 goals and 22 assists in 129 appearances since his debut in September 2017, meaning he has been directly involved in 0.63 goals per 90 minutes, but he has played in just 52 per cent of Barca's LaLiga matches in that time.

Barca's plan is to move Dembele on now but, with his contract up at the end of the season, potential suitors may wish to bide their time and sign the attacker on a free transfer.

Stats Perform explores some possible destinations.

Liverpool

Could a move to Anfield be on the cards for Dembele? He has often been linked with Liverpool in the past, and Jurgen Klopp's direct approach could well suit a player that performed so well in the Bundesliga – a competition renowned for aggressive pressing and counter-attacks, which the Reds have down to a tee in the Premier League.

There is the small matter, of course, of Mohamed Salah. Arguably the best player in the world at the moment, the Egypt star plays predominantly from the right, in Dembele's preferred position. However, there is uncertainty over Salah's future, with a new contract not yet agreed. His deal runs out in 2023 and Dembele could present an ideal rotation option and eventual successor. Klopp would surely back himself to get the best out of the 24-year-old.

 

PSG

A team reported to hold a firm interest is Ligue 1 giants PSG. It would be ironic should Dembele – the man signed by Barca to replace Neymar – ended up playing alongside the Brazil star in Paris.

PSG already, of course, have a star-studded attack. But with Kylian Mbappe expected to leave at the end of the season and Lionel Messi, Neymar and Angel Di Maria not getting any younger, Dembele could provide a relatively cost-effective replacement, and a return to France might reignite his career.

Bayern Munich

Or could a move back to the Bundesliga be the trick for Dembele? Bayern Munich have plenty of top-quality wing options, with Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sane and Kingsley Coman, who has just signed a new long-term deal, complimented by youngster Jamal Musiala. Yet in all competitions this season, Dembele has created 2.4 chances per 90 minutes played, and that is better than any of Bayern's current wingers other than Sane (2.6).

His 6.7 dribbles attempted per 90 ranks behind only Musiala (7.8) and he leads the way in shots (4.5). Most important, perhaps, is Dembele's tendency to cross. He has delivered 6.7 open-play crosses per 90 in 2021-22, exactly two more than Bayern's best wide player in this metric (Coman - 4.7), something that Robert Lewandowski would surely relish.

Borussia Dortmund

This may seem an unlikely move, but what about heading back to Dortmund? Dembele was a superstar at Signal Iduna Park in his first spell there, although fans did not take kindly to his wish to leave, and that may well mean this would not get off the ground.

But, putting any negative emotions to one side, Dortmund have a vibrant attack under Marco Rose, though are likely to lose Erling Haaland in the close-season. While Dembele's wages might be an issue right now, should he remain at Barca for the rest of the season, could Dortmund use funds generated from a possible Haaland sale to bring back a player who played a direct hand in 30 goals (10 goals, 20 assists) and created 100 chances across all competitions in 2016-17.

 

Juventus

Another elite club that could provide a new lease of life for Dembele is Juve. The Serie A giants are not involved in the title race this season, at least according to their coach Massimiliano Allegri, though he will know the Bianconeri nevertheless must challenge for silverware in Europe or in the Coppa Italia. 

Dembele could provide the spark that is missing in Juve's attack, especially with Federico Chiesa expected to miss at least six months with a serious knee injury, while Dejan Kulusevski has been rumoured to be on the transfer list.

Newcastle United

One of these clubs is not like the others but, given their new-found wealth – and, perhaps, the need to make a real statement signing – maybe it would be foolish to discount Newcastle.

Whether Dembele would fancy swapping Barcelona for the north east of England and a Premier League relegation battle in January is of course up for debate, though what would not be up for debate is Newcastle, with their Saudi Arabia-backed ownership, having the funds to pull such a signing off.

Dembele would represent a step up in quality and would surely be an instant fans' favourite at St James' Park and alongside Allan Saint-Maximin on the other flank, provide some added star power to help Newcastle survive and, possibly, thrive in future seasons.

Mikel Arteta has urged his Arsenal players to do their talking on the field against Liverpool after accusing unnamed parties of "lying" about the reasons behind Sunday's north London derby postponement.

The Gunners had a request to call off the match against fierce rivals Tottenham accepted by the Premier League on Saturday due to having a lack of players available to choose from.

However, Arteta's side were accused of exploiting the Premier League's rules for a game to be postponed, with the majority of their players absent due to injury, suspension or Africa Cup of Nations duty.

Arsenal had only one confirmed positive COVID-19 case at the time of lodging an application to get the derby called off, but the Premier League deemed they were unable to meet the required number of available players – 13 outfielders and a goalkeeper – despite their Under-23s having a squad of 16 for a game on Friday.

Speaking on Tuesday, Tottenham head coach Antonio Conte felt the decision to postpone the match was "very, very strange".

But Arteta hit back at Arsenal's critics in response to Conte's remarks and added: "We're not going to let anybody damage our name or try to spread lies."

Doubling down on those comments, Arteta said: "We have to defend ourselves. The best way to do that is demonstrate who we are, and the best way to do that is on the pitch.

"Whoever is saying we are trying to do something we are not, that's a lie. We have all the evidence we have to provide. 

"You have to provide evidence individually, all the MRIs, all the COVID cases that you have, you have to put it on the table, you have to explain it, you have to answer more questions and you have to go again and do it. We've done all the right things."

As the fallout from Sunday's derby cancellation continues, Arsenal have a crucial EFL Cup semi-final second leg against Liverpool to prepare for on Thursday.

The tie is delicately poised following last week's goalless draw at Anfield, where Arsenal held on with 10 men for more than an hour after Granit Xhaka's sending off.

And for Arteta, the match at Emirates Stadium represents a chance for his young squad to continue their development by reaching a major final.

"I can sense the excitement when they're training. They're really looking forward to it. The majority of them have not experienced [a semi-final]," he said.

"It's why you play football, it's why you want to play for this club, to win trophies. We want to go through and then go and win it, which is the best memory you can have."

Arsenal confirmed on Thursday that defender Pablo Mari has completed his loan move to Serie A side Udinese.

Mari, who has made 22 appearances for the Gunners in all competitions, will remain at the Dacia Arena for the remainder of the season. 

Barcelona director of football Mateu Alemany has informed Ousmane Dembele to "leave the club immediately" after repeatedly turning down the offer of a new contract.

The Catalan giants have been in talks with the France international since July over extending his existing deal, which runs out at the end of this season.

Dembele has struggled to establish himself as a key player at Camp Nou since joining from Borussia Dortmund in 2017 for an initial €105million due to persistent injury setbacks.

Barca head coach Xavi recently insisted Dembele could become the "best in the world" in his position as he underlined his desire for the forward to agree fresh terms.

However, the 24-year-old's agent Moussa Sissoko this week told RMC Sport that he would not bow to "pressure" from Barca over his client's future. 

Sissoko also accused the club of making "threats of no longer playing in the side" rather than engaging in productive talks with Dembele.

That led to Xavi issuing an ultimatum on Wednesday when telling the former Dortmund attacker to either agree to the offer on the table or be sold in the January window.

And after he was left out of Barcelona's squad for Thursday's Copa del Rey last-16 tie with Athletic Bilbao, Alemany revealed time has now run out for Dembele.

"With Ousmane and his agents we started conversations around the month of July," Alemany told Barca TV.

"In all this time, almost seven months, we have talked, Barca has made different offers, we have tried to find a way for the player to continue with us.

"Those offers have been continuously rejected by his agents. It seems obvious that the player does not want to continue at Barcelona and is not committed to our future project.

"We told him and his agents that he must leave the club immediately because we want to have players committed to the project.

"We expect a transfer to take place before January 31. The sporting consequence is that we don't want to have players who don't want to be at Barca.

"The fact that he was not in the [squad] list for today is the consequence of this whole process. The coach has our full support, it's a consistent attitude."

Dembele has played just six times in LaLiga this season and in just over half of Barca's league games since his arrival four-and-a-half years ago.

He has managed 31 goals and 22 assists in 129 appearances since his debut in September 2017, meaning he has been directly involved in 0.63 goals per 90 minutes.

That puts him on a par with compatriots Kingsley Coman and Anthony Martial among players from Europe's top five leagues, and just behind Liverpool star Sadio Mane (0.64).

His goal tally has also come from an expected goals (xG) of 23.7, suggesting Dembele's finishing has been of a high standard, given the quality of chances that have come his way.

However, to put Dembele's injury issues into some context, the 129 games he has played for Barca is 91 fewer than team-mate Sergio Busquets over the same period.

Dembele has reportedly drawn interest from a host of Premier League sides, including newly-rich Newcastle United, as well as Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Bayern Munich. 

Cristiano Ronaldo's dream homecoming to Manchester United has not gone quite to plan so far.

While Ronaldo has scored 14 goals in 22 games – double the amount of any other United player – his team have otherwise struggled this term.

And with United in a serious battle to qualify for next season's Champions League, an early parting of the ways could be on the cards.

 

TOP STORY – RONALDO'S TOP-FOUR ULTIMATUM

Ronaldo's representatives have informed United that the superstar forward will leave if the club miss out on a top-four finish in the Premier League, according to The Sun.

The Portugal international, who penned a two-year contract in August with the option of a further year, is said to be concerned by the direction in which United are heading.

Ralf Rangnick's side beat Brentford 3-1 on Tuesday but still remain seventh, albeit now just two points off fourth-placed West Ham with a game in hand.

Serial winner Ronaldo last week questioned the attitude of some of his United team-mates and then reacted angrily to being substituted off during the win at Brentford.


ROUND-UP

Bayern Munich will consider selling Robert Lewandowski at the end of the season if their talisman turns down the offer of a new deal, according to Bild. Lewandowski, who received The Best FIFA Men's Player of the Year on Monday, is out of contract at the end of 2022-23.

– Goal reports that Atletico Madrid have no intention of allowing Luis Suarez to complete a sensational return to the Premier League this month. The former Liverpool striker had been touted as a target for Aston Villa, who are now under the management of his old team-mate Steven Gerrard.

Chelsea have set their sights on a trio of Barcelona players, reports El Nacional. Blues boss Thomas Tuchel is said to be particularly keen on Frenkie de Jong, while full-back Sergino Dest and youngster Gavi are also targets.

– Meanwhile, Sport say that Barca are interested in Chelsea's Andreas Christensen. Barca are hoping to reach a pre-contract agreement with the defender this month.

Newcastle United must fend off competition from another Premier League club for the signing of Sevilla centre-back Diego Carlos, claims Sky Sports. The Magpies are also reported to be interested in Jesse Lingard.

Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is the subject of a loan bid, with an obligation to buy, from Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassr. The Gabon international is out of the picture under Mikel Arteta and may be granted permission to leave for the rest of 2021-22. Goal are reporting that story.

Barcelona coach Xavi has issued an ultimatum to Ousmane Dembele over his future: either sign a new contract or leave the club this month.

The Catalans have been in discussion with the winger for months about an extension to his deal, which expires at the end of the season.

Dembele has struggled badly with injury troubles since his move from Borussia Dortmund in 2017 for an initial €105million, which have hampered his attempts to establish himself as a key player at Camp Nou.

Xavi, though, has been eager to see the France international stay at the club despite him playing just six times in LaLiga this season and in only 52 per cent of all Barca's league games since his arrival.

This week, Dembele's agent Moussa Sissoko told RMC Sport that he would not bow to "pressure" from Barca over his client's future and accused the club of making "threats of no longer playing in the side" rather than engaging in productive talks.

It appears Xavi and Barca's directors have had enough of the situation and the message to Dembele is clear.

 

"What I can say is that we are making a difficult decision. If he does not renew, the club has decided they will make a decision," Xavi told reporters ahead of Thursday's Copa del Rey clash with Athletic Bilbao.

"We've waited a long time. We have been in talks with him for five months.

"Either he renews or we look for an exit. In the end, the club has decided that if he does not renew, a solution must be found.

"We have to do what is best for the club. [Sporting director] Mateu Alemany has been talking with him and his representatives for months.

"It's not a pleasant situation for anyone, but what's clear is that the interests of the club must prevail here.

"He told me he wants to stay. It's a question for him. I've been really clear; I can't be more concise. Either he renews, or we look for an exit. It's all or nothing."

Xavi also made it clear he considers it a priority to extend the contract of defender Ronald Araujo, which expires at the end of next season.

"His renewal is a priority. He's a really important piece. He has a winning character," Xavi said.

"I hope an agreement is reached because he's a player for the present and the future. Ronald is a boy who adds a lot."

Hans-Joachim Watzke has slammed the suggestion that Borussia Dortmund have issued Erling Haaland an ultimatum over his future as "total b***s***".

Haaland, who joined Dortmund in January 2020 from Austrian club Salzburg, is one of the most sought-after talents in European football.

Since the Norway forward made his Dortmund debut just over two years ago, he has netted 79 goals in all competitions.

He marked his two-year anniversary with a goal on Tuesday, though Dortmund nevertheless suffered a shock 2-1 defeat to St Pauli in the DFB-Pokal.

It means that, for the first time since 2006-07, neither Dortmund nor Bayern Munich will contend in the DFB-Pokal quarter-finals, while none of the winners from across the previous 26 years are left in this season's competition.

That defeat followed on from an emphatic Bundesliga win over Freiburg on Friday, though it was after that match that Haaland commented on his future.

The 21-year-old claimed Dortmund had been pressuring to make a decision on his next move, and that he would soon make a call on whether he will look to leave the club at the end of the season. 

However, Dortmund chief executive Watzke, who did over the weekend acknowledge they had stressed the importance of Haaland making a decision soon to the striker, has insisted the club have not made any ultimatum.

"Some in the media write that BVB would give him an ultimatum, which is total bullshit," he told ARD.

"Dortmund didn't put the gun on his chest."

 

Asked if Dortmund had been unsettled by Haaland's comments, Watzke added: "Erling was obviously a bit bothered by it, but we can't influence that. We told him that too."

Since his Dortmund bow, only Robert Lewandowski (107) has scored more goals than Haaland across all competitions, of players in Europe's top five leagues.

Haaland averages a goal every 80 minutes, while his tally has come from an expected goals (xG) of 63, suggesting his finishing has been way above the standard that would be expected given the quality of chances that have been created for him.

As for big chances – which Opta define as an opportunity from which a player would reasonably be expected to score – Haaland has been presented with 110 and converted 65 of them.

That equals a conversion rate of 59.1 per cent, which is better than eight of the top 10 goalscorers across Europe's top five leagues in that time, with Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes, who has netted 32 of his 49 big chances (65.3 per cent) having a better conversion rate.

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