Senior Chelsea players have pointed to "the worst pre-season they've had" as a possible reason for their poor form, according to head coach Graham Potter.

The Blues make the short trip to Tottenham on the back of a four-game winless streak in the Premier League, including a home loss to rock-bottom Southampton last week.

For Potter, who succeeded Thomas Tuchel in September, the pressure has continued to build as his side have slipped further down the table.

Ahead of another difficult encounter for his misfiring team, he acknowledged there were no easy answers and discussed conversations he held with some of his players about their preparation for the season before he arrived from Brighton and Hove Albion.

The club visited the United States for three games in July, before playing Serie A side Udinese twice in Italy ahead of the 2022-23 campaign.

"It is really tough," he said. "A few weeks ago, [I said] it is the toughest job of football, and there are reasons for that.

"Speaking to a few of the experienced guys, they said it was the worst pre-season they've had. Organisationally, the tour didn't work as well as they'd like. I wasn't there so I can't say.

"We thought we had made progress, but against Southampton, [it] was below par. The sky can fall. These are inconvenient facts, but that's the situation."

Potter insisted he still has the full backing of owner Todd Boehly and the Chelsea board, and added that he expects and deserves to be under the microscope.

"With results as they are, you accept criticism," he said. "That should come, that is fair. [But] the mood here has always been positive and respectful.

"That is not to say it is easy at all. My family suffers, my mental health suffers. Personally, it is hard. I've been under pressure here for four months."

Captain Cesar Azpilicueta was taken to hospital during the defeat to Southampton after he suffered a concussion, and will not be available for the Spurs clash.

Potter was pleased with his improvement though, adding: "He is as OK as you can be when you've had that. He won't be ready for the weekend, but he's doing well."

The rapid rise of Napoli centre-back Kim Min-jae has not gone unnoticed, with Manchester United reportedly investigating a potential transfer for the end of the season.

Kim, 26, played in Korea and China until he was 24 years old, eventually catching the eye of Fenerbahce, who purchased him for a €3million fee.

After one season in Turkey, Napoli scooped him up for €18m, and he has played a big part in their best season in the 21st century. He has played in 22 of runaway leaders Napoli's 23 Serie A matches this campaign, starting all of them.

The powerfully-built defender has emerged as one of the league's top talents, and unfortunately for Napoli, he has a surprisingly affordable release clause in his contract.

 

TOP STORY – MANCHESTER UNITED DISCUSS ACTIVATING KIM'S RELEASE CLAUSE

According to Calciomercato, United have been targeting Kim for months, and have been in contact with his agents to gauge his interest in a potential Premier League move.

Kim reportedly has a £44m (€50m) release clause in his contract, but Napoli officials are desperate to award him a new contract to at least raise that figure to their valuation of £61m (€70m).

United are expected to make him a primary target at the end of the season.

 

ROUND-UP

– Football London is reporting Arsenal have made 24-year-old West Ham midfielder Declan Rice their top target after acknowledging they will not be in the running for Borussia Dortmund's Jude Bellingham.

– According to the Evening Standard, Arsenal will have to battle Juventus, Borussia Dortmund and Newcastle United to secure 18-year-old Real Valladolid full-back Ivan Fresneda in the next transfer window, with his £26.5m (€30m) release clause drawing plenty of interest.

Chelsea will allow midfielder Mason Mount to leave before the beginning of next season if he does not agree to a new contract, per The Athletic.

– Sport Witness is reporting Everton had a £22m (€25m) offer for 25-year-old Udinese forward Beto rejected late in the January window, and it is believed they could return with an improved bid. 

– According to Football Insider, Tottenham are viewed as the favourites to land 26-year-old Leicester City midfielder James Maddison, who will be allowed to leave the club if he does not sign an extension.

Josko Gvardiol is hot property around Europe and he boosted his stocks with the equaliser in RB Leipzig's 1-1 draw with Manchester City on Wednesday.

The 21-year-old centre-back is contracted with Leipzig until 2027, although he reportedly has an exit clause in his deal, worth €110 million.

Leipzig head coach Marco Rose was adamant after Wednesday's game that Gvardiol will remain with the club next season.

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL KEEN ON LEIPZIG STAR GVARDIOL

Liverpool will look to bolster their defensive options with a move for Gvardiol, claims Fabrizio Romano.

The Croatia international has been targetted by Chelsea and he only enhanced his reputation during the 2022 World Cup. He has also been linked with City and Real Madrid.

Gvardiol has previously indicated he would be love to join the Reds, potentially offering Jurgen Klopp's side an edge in the race to sign him. 

 

ROUND-UP

Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United are all keeping tabs on Kylian Mbappe's situation at Paris Saint-Germain, claims Football Insider. Speculation continues to swirl that Mbappe, who is contracted through the end of the 2024-25 season, is unhappy at PSG.

Chelsea are interested in a move for Dinamo Moscow 19-year-old midfielder Arsen Zakharyan, according to CaughtOffside.

– Fichajes say Juventus are considering a move to sign Real Betis forward Borja Iglesias amid worries Dusan Vlahovic could depart at the end of the season.

Napoli will challenge PSG in the race to sign Eintracht Frankfurt forward Randal Kolo Muani, reports CalcioMercato.

Manchester United are plotting a double swoop for Leicester City midfield duo James Maddison and Youri Tielemans, according to Football Transfers.

Raphael Guerreiro is set to exit Borussia Dortmund at the end of this season as a free agent, reports Nicolo Schira.

Liverpool midfielder Stefan Bajcetic has reportedly caught the attention of LaLiga powerhouses Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Bajcetic, 18, scored his first Premier League goal in a short substitute appearance against Aston Villa on Boxing Day, and after impressing in a pair of January FA Cup starts, he forced his way into the first team.

He has started their past four Premier League fixtures as well as Tuesday's Champions League Final rematch against Madrid, indicating a rapid rise in the eyes of Jurgen Klopp.

The Spaniard left Celta Vigo in 2020 to head to the Premier League, but his home country could soon come calling to bring him back.

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL TEEN CAPTURES IMAGINATION OF EUROPE'S ELITE

According to Fichajes, both Barcelona and Madrid "have been closely following his evolution", and they believe Bajcetic possesses the qualities necessary to perform at the highest level.

Barcelona reportedly view him as "an ideal piece to form a future midfield with Pedri and Gavi", while Madrid would like him to be the successor to ageing veterans Luka Modric and Toni Kroos.

His contract ties him to Anfield until 2027, but the Spanish giants could try to test his transfer value as soon as this off-season.

 

ROUND-UP

– The Daily Mail is reporting Aston Villa will listen to offers for 30-year-old goalkeeper and World Cup hero Emiliano Martinez after the season with the hope that a significant transfer fee could fund a mini-rebuild.

– Leicester City will look to sell James Maddison at the end of the season if they can not convince him to sign a new contract, with Manchester City, Newcastle United and Tottenham named as interested parties, per Football Insider.

– According to The Telegraph, 31-year-old midfielder N'Golo Kante will sign a new contract to remain at Chelsea.

– Gazzetta dello Sport is reporting Inter will look to move on from wing-backs Denzel Dumfries and Robin Gosens at the end of the season, with Dumfries a potential piece in a swap deal for Chelsea loanee Romelu Lukaku.

– According to the Evening Standard, Saudi Arabian clubs – including Cristiano Ronaldo's Al Nassr – are circling 30-year-old Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha with the belief he would be open to a Middle East move for the right price.

Thomas Tuchel has been out of a job since being sacked by Chelsea in September but could be on the brink of a return to action. 

The German has previously led top European clubs Borussia Dortmund, Paris Saint-Germain and the Blues, whom he took to the 2020-21 Champions League title.

The 49-year-old has been linked with numerous vacant posts in recent months but reportedly turned down two Premier League offers.

TOP STORY – PSG WILLING TO ADMIT TUCHEL ERROR

PSG have grown frustrated with head coach Christophe Galtier and are ready to move to re-appoint Thomas Tuchel, claims the Evening Standard.

The club sacked Tuchel in December 2020 after two and a half years in charge with the best win percentage in Ligue 1 history.

But PSG are reportedly willing to admit their mistake in letting him go as they try to convince Tuchel to return following their recent run of three straight defeats, which was ended by Sunday's 4-3 win over Lille.

The report claims Tuchel would need assurances from the club, but it is the type of role he has been waiting for, joining a top side competing for major trophies.

 

ROUND-UP

– Real Madrid winger Marco Asensio is being monitored by Tottenham, according to Football Insider. Spurs will need to compete with Arsenal and Manchester United for the 27-year-old, who is out of contract at the end of this season.

Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United are all circling for Borussia Monchengladbach's Marcus Thuram, reports Talksport. The Athletic claims Thuram will exit Gladbach in the off-season as a free agent, with Bayern Munich also interested.

– Relevo reports Bayern are weighing up a move for Real Madrid midfielder Dani Ceballos, with head coach Julian Nagelsmann an admirer, although no contact has been made yet.

– ESPN claims Manchester United and teenage sensation Alejandro Garnacho have agreed in principle to a new five-year contract, warding off interest.

Manchester United will need to fork out €80million (£71m) to land Tammy Abraham from Roma, reports Calciomercatoweb.

Juventus will move for Real Madrid winger Brahim Diaz after this season, claims Calciomercatoweb. Diaz is currently on loan at Milan, but the Rossoneri will not trigger their option to buy him.

Borussia Dortmund forward Karim Adeyemi looks likely to miss the second leg of their Champions League tie against Chelsea after sustaining torn muscle fibres.

Adeyemi raced clear on the break to score a memorable winner as Dortmund claimed a 1-0 victory over the beleaguered Blues in the first leg of their last-16 tie on Wednesday.

At the age of 21 years and 28 days, that strike made Adeyemi the youngest player to net against Chelsea in the Champions League since Victor Osimhen did so for Lille in October 2019 (20 years, 277 days).

Adeyemi followed up that effort by opening the scoring in BVB's 4-1 Bundesliga win over Hertha Berlin on Sunday, while he also recorded an assist for Donyell Malen.

However, Adeyemi was forced off before the interval after suffering an injury in the move that led to his cross for Malen's goal, and was seen clutching his left thigh before being helped from the field.

Dortmund revealed the Germany international is expected to miss around three weeks of action on Monday, which would rule him out of their trip to Stamford Bridge on March 7.

"Borussia Dortmund's attacking player Karim Adeyemi sustained torn muscle fibres in the home game against Hertha BSC on Sunday," read an update from the club. "He will be unavailable to play for the team for approximately three weeks."

Adeyemi's injury comes at an unfortunate time, with the former Salzburg man having scored on each of his last four BVB appearances, after only netting twice in his first 20 outings for the club.

Angel Di Maria's time in Europe may be winding down, with his Juventus contract expiring at the end of this season.

The winger, who turned 35 last week, is yet to agree an extension with the Bianconeri, sparking talk he may opt to return to his homeland.

However, the 2022 World Cup winner recently said he was "happy" in Turin, and in Europe, without committing to any direction beyond this season.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA PLOT BID FOR FREE AGENT DI MARIA

Barcelona are weighing up a shock bid to land Angel Di Maria as a free agent at the end of this season, claims Tuttomercatoweb.

Di Maria has previously expressed his desire to one day join hometown club Rosario Central but, at 35, may be tempted by another stint at the top level.

Atletico Madrid are also believed to be interested in the former Real Madrid, Manchester United and Paris-Saint-Germain winger.

 

ROUND-UP

Bayern Munich will provide opposition to Paris Saint-Germain and attempt to sign Chelsea winger Hakim Ziyech, claims Fichajes.

PSG are keen to bring in Manchester United starlet Alejandro Garnacho, according to Mundo Deportivo. United are trying to extend the 18-year-old Argentinian's contract, which expires in 2024.

Real Madrid are interested in Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, but Napoli will not sell him for a price lower than €100m, claims Diario AS.

Newcastle United are monitoring the status of Arsenal's Kiernan Tierney, who has fallen behind Oleksandr Zinchenko as their preferred left-back, according to Football Insider.

Arsenal are front-runners in the pursuit to sign Inter defender Denzel Dumfries, reports Tuttosport. The Gunners have moved ahead of both Chelsea and Manchester United in the race for the Dutchman's signature.

– Fichajes reports that Zinedine Zidane, Mauricio Pochettino, Diego Simeone and Luis Enrique are all on Chelsea's shortlist to replace under-pressure manager Graham Potter, although The Mirror claims owner Todd Boehly has no intention of sacking him yet.

Marcus Thuram is poised to leave Borussia Monchengladbach on a free transfer at the end of the season amid reported interest from Chelsea and Inter.

Gladbach sporting director Roland Virkus gave the clearest indication yet on Sunday that Gladbach stand to lose the France international when his contract expires at the end of June.

Numerous clubs from Europe's elite have been credited with an interest in Thuram, with Inter reportedly leading the chase alongside competition from Chelsea and Gladbach's Bundesliga rivals Bayern Munich.

The 25-year-old has scored 11 goals and assisted three more in the Bundesliga this season, with only five players bettering his 14 goal involvements among German top-flight players.

Virkus, speaking to Sport1, appeared to acknowledge likely defeat in Gladbach's attempts to keep the son of France great Lilian Thuram.

He said: "With Marcus Thuram we stretched. We have to accept that when there are even bigger clubs where Marcus might go."

Virkus added: "The fact that players will leave us for free is not a positive situation and I can't sugarcoat it."

Gladbach sit eighth in the Bundesliga after Thuram scored in a 3-2 victory over 10-man Bayern on Saturday.

Christian Atsu has been found dead after the earthquakes that hit Turkey, his Super Lig club announced on Saturday.

The former Premier League player had not been seen since southern Turkey and northern Syria were hit by powerful tremors on February 6.

Previously with Newcastle United, Chelsea and Everton, Atsu scored for Hatayspor the day before the earthquakes, which resulted in the collapse of the apartment block in which the 31-year-old was living. 

Atsu's club initially reported he had been recovered from the rubble, but it was subsequently confirmed that was not the case.

Hatayspor's update said Atsu's body had now been recovered and was being returned to his homeland of Ghana.

The club said in a statement posted on social media: "The funeral of our football player Christian Atsu, who lost his life under the rubble, is on his way to be sent to his hometown [in] Ghana.

"We will not forget you, Atsu. Peace be upon you, beautiful person.

"There are no words to describe our sadness. REST in PEACE ATSU."

Over 40,000 people have been reported by local authorities to have died due to the earthquakes.

Liverpool are reportedly keeping a close eye on Chelsea's Mason Mount as negotiations for a contract extension continue to stall.

Mount, 24, has been with Chelsea since he was six years old, racking up 190 appearances and 33 goals for the club since breaking into the first team for the 2019-20 season.

An England regular with 36 international caps, Mount is a crucial part of Chelsea's midfield options, although his minutes have been far less secure under Graham Potter than previous managers.

Of his 19 Premier League starts this campaign, Mount has been subbed off 12 times, and the club are reportedly hesitant to meet his contract demands.

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL MONITOR MOUNT AS HIS CONTRACT WINDS DOWN

Mount only has one more season remaining on his deal before he will be able to leave on a free transfer, and the Daily Mail is reporting Liverpool are hovering for an opportunity to pry him away.

The report claims Mount is aiming to triple his current £80,000-per-week wages, which would bring him in line with recent transfer acquisitions, as well as 23-year-old team-mate Reece James, who was rewarded with a £250,000-per-week deal in September.

If Chelsea are not able to lock up their talented midfielder by the end of the season, they will likely be forced into a sale.

 

ROUND-UP

– According to 90min, Manchester City have renewed their interest in 24-year-old West Ham midfielder Declan Rice as they plan a midfield rebuild.

– The Evening Standard is reporting Chelsea and Juventus have mutual interest in converting Denis Zakaria's loan move into a permanent deal, with an optional buy-clause set at £27m (€30m).

Aston Villa will try to sign 25-year-old Roma striker Tammy Abraham at the end of the season, who is believed to be valued around £40m (€44m), per 90min.

– Footmercato is reporting Paris Saint-Germain have been in contact with Roma boss Jose Mourinho about potentially taking over from Christophe Galtier, although the French giants prefer Zinedine Zidane.

Neymar's interest in a move to the Premier League is gaining momentum, with Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool among the teams alerted about his potential availability.

The 31-year-old star had reportedly come up in a recent conversation between Chelsea owner Todd Boehly and Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, and with a deal not being ruled out, Neymar's team have contacted more of England's top sides.

Neymar is tied for the Ligue 1 assist lead with 10, while he has 12 goals in 19 appearances.

Now in his sixth season in France since arriving for a world-record €222million fee, and on the brink of another disappointing Champions League exit, Brazil's joint all-time leading scorer is eyeing a new challenge.

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR'S TEAM GAUGES THE INTEREST OF TOP PREMIER LEAGUE CLUBS

According to 90min, Neymar's "intermediaries are believed to have spoken with Chelsea, Liverpool, City, United, and Newcastle United" – informing the clubs of his desire for a Premier League transfer.

The report claims Paris Saint-Germain are not desperate to part ways with Neymar, but would be open to facilitating a deal.

Chelsea owner Boehly is believed to be "intrigued" about the potential for such a high-profile signing, although it remains to be seen who else would be willing to meet what is expected to be an enormous contract demand.

 

ROUND-UP

– ESPN is reporting Liverpool, City and United are closely monitoring Mason Mount, who only has one more season on his current Chelsea contract, and is hesitant about signing the kind of long-term deals Chelsea have been handing out.

Newcastle, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and City all want 22-year-old Napoli winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, but the Serie A leaders have no interest in selling, and are in the process of rewarding the Georgian with a big new contract, per 90min.

– According to Tuttosport, Real Madrid, Barcelona, City and Chelsea are keeping an eye on 17-year-old Velez prospect Gianluca Prestianni, who is the third-youngest debutant in the history of Argentina's top flight behind Diego Maradona and Sergio Aguero.

– Calciomercato is reporting Bayern Munich will continue their pursuit of Tottenham striker Harry Kane, but are unwilling to meet their £100m (€112m) valuation. 

Arsenal have sent scouts to watch 17-year-old Athletico Paranaense forward Vitor Roque, who is reportedly valued at over £50m, per CaughtOffside.

Neymar is contracted with Paris Saint-Germain until 2025 but the French champions have reportedly transfer listed him.

The Brazilian forward is on a hefty wage, believed to be around €36 million per year.

Neymar has netted 12 goals in 19 Ligue 1 games this season, adding another five goals in nine appearances in other competitions.


TOP STORY – MEETING HELD AS CHELSEA'S NEYMAR INTEREST DEVELOPS

Le Parisien reports Chelsea owner Todd Boehly has met with PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi about a transfer for Neymar.

The report claims the meeting was held in Paris, discussing the conditions around a potential transfer in the next transfer window.

It is claimed that a fee of around €60 million (£53m) has been discussed, although Neymar's significant wages may be a stumbling block to overcome.

 

ROUND-UP

– Inter defender Denzel Dumfries is set to be the subject of off-season bids from both Arsenal and Manchester United, claims Fichajes. The Premier League duo both see an opportunity to sign the Dutchman below market value.

– Fabrizio Romano reports Barcelona have agreed to sign Mexican right-back Julian Araujo from MLS club LA Galaxy. The deal is worth €4 million, with a contract to be signed up until 2026.

– Sport Bild claims Bayern Munich are monitoring the status of Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford, with consideration being put to a bid prior to the next transfer window. Arsenal are also keep tabs on Rashford's situation, according to Football Insider.

– Bild also reports Bayern are still keen on Tottenham forward Harry Kane but will not be drawn into a bidding war for his services, with Manchester United in the hunt too.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta wants the club to sign Real Sociedad's 24-year-old midfielder Martin Zubimendi, reports Sport.

Liverpool have held preliminary talks for Torino defender Perr Schuurs, claims Tuttosport.

Jude Bellingham believes "not many players can stop" in-form Borussia Dortmund team-mate Karim Adeyemi following his wonderful individual goal against Chelsea.

Dortmund edged their noses ahead on aggregate with a narrow 1-0 win in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie, in which Adeyemi's 63rd-minute strike proved decisive.

From a devastating counter-attack following a Chelsea corner, the Germany forward latched onto Raphael Guerreiro's pass and raced past Enzo Fernandez, before rounding Kepa Arrizabalaga to score.

And Bellingham - Dortmund's captain for the day - saluted Adeyemi, who has now scored in each of his last three appearances - one more goal than he managed in his first 20 games for the club since arriving from Salzburg last year.

"We are really confident when he gets the ball one on one. Not many players can stop him," the England midfielder told BT Sport. "He had a tough time coming here at the start - finding his feet - and now he's flying.

"We dominated the first half. They had chances, but we were in control for the majority of the first half. 

"In the second half, we took the foot off the gas, and they had more control. We showed how well we can defend and see out games."

Dortmund registered their first European victory over an English side in 11 attempts, while they have now won all seven of their matches in 2023.

"It's a case of new year, new luck. For me, it's that simple," Adeyemi told DAZN. "As a team, we talked a lot during the break, and it brought us closer together. 

"The only thing I was thinking [against Fernandez] was that I just need to get the ball past him. You just try to win your duels, the goalkeeper came out and there may have been a bit of luck, but I'm delighted with the goal.

"It was a tough start to the game for us, but then you could see that everyone was fighting for each other, and we knew something was possible here tonight. We're delighted to have won."

Erling Haaland's long-term future has been a source of speculation for months and reports of a release clause in mid-2024 in his Manchester City contract have put Barcelona and Real Madrid on high alert.

The Norwegian was pursued by a host of clubs last off-season, with City winning the race ahead of Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United, Chelsea, Juventus, Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Haaland has since scored 25 Premier League goals in 21 appearances and 31 in all competitions after joining City.


TOP STORY – HAALAND SET FOR SPANISH SWITCH NEXT YEAR

Erling Haaland has decided he wants to leave England for Spain next year when the release clause in his City contract can be activated, reports Fichajes.

The report claims Real Madrid and Barcelona are the two viable options for Haaland, who will exit City at the end of the 2023-24 season, with playing in Spain a dream for the 22-year-old.

City's potential sanctions for alleged breaches of the Premier League's financial rules have also played a part in Haaland believing mid-2024 is the right time to leave.

 

ROUND-UP

- Big-spending Chelsea are set to join the race to sign Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham, reports The Telegraph. Liverpool, Manchester City and Real Madrid are already keen on the 19-year-old England international.

- Manchester Evening News claims Manchester United have "genuine interest" in a move for Roma's English striker Tammy Abraham in the next transfer window.

- Barcelona's Ansu Fati will resist overtures from Tottenham, Arsenal and Bayern Munich to remain with the Blaugrana, reports Mundo Deportivo.

- AS reports Tottenham will turn to Sevilla's Morocco international goalkeeper Yassine Bounou in their search for a long-term successor to Hugo Lloris.

- Leicester City have ramped up talks with James Maddison on a new contract amid interest from Newcastle United, Arsenal and Tottenham, claims The Telegraph.

- FotoSpor claims Turkish club Fenerbahce have reached out to Manchester United about signing Mason Greenwood, who is under club investigation despite criminal charges being dropped against him recently.

- Calciomercatoweb reports Massimiliano Allegri could leave his position as Juventus head coach to replace Roberto Mancini in Italy's top job.

Borussia Dortmund host Chelsea for the first leg of a Champions League tie that sees two of the world's best prospects go head-to-head.

Jude Bellingham and Enzo Fernandez have a combined age of just 41. Between them, the pair have already stacked up 278 senior club appearances.

Bellingham has played 161 times for Dortmund and Birmingham City, while Fernandez has racked up 117 appearances across spells at Defensa y Justicia, River Plate, Benfica and now Chelsea.

As good as the duo have been for their clubs, they elevated themselves into the "must buy" category for Europe's elite sides with their performances at last year's World Cup.

Fernandez was named the tournament's best young player as he played a key role in Argentina claiming their third world crown, and Chelsea were determined to get their man.

While their efforts early in the January window were frustrated, Chelsea eventually agreed to pay Benfica the full amount of Fernandez's £106.8million (€121m) buy-out clause as he became the crown jewel of their spending spree.

Bellingham, meanwhile, asserted himself as a crucial player in Gareth Southgate's England side, with the 19-year-old's displays in Qatar reminiscent of when Wayne Rooney starred at Euro 2004.

Liverpool, Manchester City and Real Madrid are said to be battling it out for Bellingham, should Dortmund decide to cash in on their talisman at the end of the season.

Should Bellingham be destined for a move back to England, then Wednesday's clash between Dortmund and Chelsea at Signal Iduna Park could just hint at what is to come from two potential Premier League staples.

Lighting up the world stage

While Bellingham was always likely to be on the radar of Europe's biggest sides regardless of whether he had a great World Cup or not, his performances for England will likely do Dortmund's bank balance no harm.

If Bellingham's fine showings in the groups had hinted at his immense talent, then his performance in England's 3-0 victory over Senegal in the last 16 was a coming of age performance on the international stage.

Bellingham did not score but was heavily involved in all three of England's goals to mark him becoming the only teenager, after Michael Owen in 1998, to start a World Cup knockout game for England.

He went off in the 76th minute of that tie having provided an assist – the youngest player to do so for England in a World Cup game since 1966 – and completed 30 of his 33 passes (91 per cent), with eight of those attempted in the final third.

Across the tournament, only Luke Shaw (16) contributed to more open-play shot-ending sequences than Bellingham (15) did for the Three Lions.

 

Fernandez, on the other hand, has certainly had the limelight thrust on him due to his excellent World Cup.

Not that he had not been excellent at Benfica. However, his stunning goal in Argentina's group stage win over Mexico led to him being a constant starter for the rest of the tournament.

In the final, Fernandez led all players for touches (118), successful passes (77) and tackles (10). His tally of tackles was the most of any player in a World Cup showpiece match since Gennaro Gattuso in 2006 (15).

Combative off the ball, Fernandez won 40 of his 68 duels in the tournament (58.8 per cent), and also proved dependable in possession, completing 410 passes, with his accuracy of 87.6 bettered by only six of his team-mates to play at least 90 minutes in Qatar.

Fernandez played more successful long passes (16) than any other Argentina player, while only Nicolas Otamendi, Cristian Romero and Rodrigo de Paul played more forward passes than his 116.

Thriving at club level

As previously noted, Fernandez had impressed with Benfica before carrying that form into the World Cup.

Only Ricardo Horta (126) had been involved in more open-play shot-ending sequences than Fernandez (122) in Portugal's Primeira Liga prior to the latter's move to Stamford Bridge.

Fernandez ranked third in the competition for goal-ending sequence involvements (14), second for expected goals (xG) sequence involvement (18.8) and second for goal build-up involvements (eight).

From a role at the left-side of Benfica's central midfield, Fernandez was also key to starting moves during his half-season in Portugal. In the Primeira Liga alone he started 23 shot-ending sequences (league rank third), four goal-ending sequences (second) and accumulated 4.8 xG from moves he started (first).

Fernandez has taken little time to settle into the Premier League. He assisted Joao Felix's first Chelsea goal with a wonderfully weighted ball in Saturday's 1-1 draw with West Ham and his tally of 171 passes across the last two games – only four top-flight midfielders attempted more.

 

No Chelsea midfielder won more duels (12), tackles (nine, six of which he won), touches (209), carries (43), or forward passes (29). Just Fred, of Manchester United, has won more tackles in the last two league games.

The 22-year-old might have a huge price tag to live up to, but he has certainly proved to be one of the most efficient all-round midfielders in Europe this term.

Right up there with him in that regard is Bellingham, who has been let off the leash somewhat from an attacking standpoint at Dortmund this season.

With BVB no longer able to rely on Erling Haaland goals, Bellingham has been tasked with arriving into the box late to supplement their attack.

Bellingham has featured 27 times for Dortmund this season, second only to Nico Schlotterbeck. He is their top scorer with 10 goals, second for assists (six) and third for chances created (28). He boasts an impressive 19.2 per cent shot conversion rate and has outperformed his xG (7.6).

More of an attacking threat than Fernandez, Bellingham has the other side of the game too: 388 duels is 172 more than any of his club-mates, and he has won 225 of them (Schlotterbeck ranks second with 144); the same goes for tackles, with the teenager attempting 70 and winning 39 – both team highs.

 

A sign of what's to come

Fernandez is the most expensive signing in Premier League history, and should Bellingham join him in England's top tier next season, it seems likely as though the Birmingham boy would take that record.

They don't play the same role and shouldn't be expected to. Bellingham's game has gone up another level since he was given the freedom and responsibility to provide more attacking threat, and Fernandez can pull the strings from deep.

Bellingham's all-action style mixed with his sharp turn of pace makes for a player that would seem perfectly suited to Liverpool or City, while Graham Potter will be expected to build around Fernandez for years to come – the Argentine did, after all, sign an eight-and-a-half-year deal with Chelsea.

One thing is clear. Bellingham and Fernandez are already outstanding players and both are destined to reach the very top.

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