Reggae Girlz head coach Lorne Donaldson says his team is ready to go ahead of their Concacaf Women’s Championship final round opener against Mexico on Monday.

Jamaica and Mexico are in Group A of the final round along with Haiti and the United States while Group B contains Canada, Costa Rica, Panama and Trinidad & Tobago.

The four semi-finalists after the group stage will advance to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

“I think, if we have everybody healthy and ready to go, we will give a good account of ourselves. The girls will come out and be ready to play. The first few minutes may be a little rusty because they haven’t played a game in a while but, when the game settles down, I think we can put some good stuff together,” Donaldson said in a pre-match interview on Sunday.

The match will be played at the University Stadium in Nueva Leon, home of the Liga MX club Tigres UANL, with kick-off scheduled for 9:00pm Jamaica time (10:00pm EST).

The Jamaicans, who spent the last two weeks in training camp in Denver, Colorado, know what to expect in enemy territory according to their head coach.

“Obviously, we play Mexico who’s the home team. They’ll have a lot of fans in the stadium and we know what to expect. Hopefully the preparation we’ve had can nullify some of their strengths,” said Donaldson.

“It’s going to be a difficult game but hopefully we can grind and battle through it so the result can fall in our favor,” he added.

Both teams come into this game on the back of some good form as the Reggae Girlz have scored 24 goals and conceded just two in their last four games while Mexico have scored 25 and conceded just one.

"He wants to come."

Barcelona president Joan Laporta did not mince his words when speaking about the possibility of the Blaugrana signing Raphinha.

Last week, Chelsea struck a deal with Leeds United – reported to be worth around £55million with add-ons taking the total fee to more than £60m – to take the Brazil winger from Elland Road to Stamford Bridge.

That agreement seemingly saw Chelsea pip London rivals Arsenal to the post after a high-profile pursuit.

Yet a deal that seemed set for a swift resolution has, as of yet, not been completed, and that is because, if Laporta is to be believed, the 25-year-old is prioritising a switch not to Stamford Bridge, but Camp Nou.

Barca have been consistently linked to Raphinha, who has established himself as one of the most exciting attackers in the Premier League since his move to Leeds from Rennes in September 2020.

Yet Laporta acknowledged that, despite Raphinha's wish to join Barca – whose financial issues make matching Chelsea's offer to Leeds problematic – the race is not won.

"We've spoken to Leeds, I don't think they will be offended," he explained. "We have communication and we have spoken personally. 

"What happens is that there are other clubs that want Raphinha and they are making their proposals."

At this stage, it does seem to be a two-horse race. Previously, with Barca's interest having seemed to have cooled, Arsenal looked well set to beat their rivals Tottenham to the winger, but it was then Chelsea who stole a march.

Bayern Munich have been credited with an interest in the past, but Sadio Mane's switch to Bavaria has ruled the German champions out.

But just why has Raphinha, a somewhat under-the-radar arrival in Yorkshire under two years ago, been so coveted?
 

Brazilian stardust meets street fighter spirit

Brazil. The home of the Copacabana, festivals and beautiful football. Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Pele, Kaka, Neymar, Zico, Socrates... the list of world-class talent produced by the South American nation is endless. They are five-time world champions for a reason.

But while Brazilian flair remains in abundance, the most recent success stories when it comes to the players that have struck gold, in the Premier League at least, have been those who have merged that national talent with steel, grit and robustness perhaps more associated with the likes of Argentina, Uruguay or the northern European nations.

Raphinha fits that bill, and like Premier League-based compatriots Gabriel Jesus and Richarlison, always seemed set to move for pastures new this off-season.

His talent cannot be doubted. Since making his Leeds debut, he has directly contributed to 29 Premier League goals, scoring 17 times and providing 12 assists, at least five more than any team-mates in the period.

 

The variety of his strikes has also been hugely impressive, with seven of his league goals for Leeds coming from outside the area. Only one player – Southampton captain James Ward-Prowse – can boast a better total (nine) in the same time frame.

Raphinha's 11 league goals last season marked his best performance since the 15 he netted in the 2017-18 campaign, when he played for Vitoria Guimaraes in Portugal. He did not score as freely for Sporting CP, and only managed seven goals during his sole full season with Rennes in France.

Leeds' system, particularly under former manager Marcelo Bielsa and even still under Jesse Marsch, is physically demanding.

Raphinha, however, proved more than up to the task. Indeed, last season, he was a standout performer when it came to both targeted off-ball runs into the final third, and the number of sprints made per 90 minutes. 

A tireless runner, Raphinha offers both sides of the game.

He compares competitively when stacked up against Tottenham new boy Richarlison, one of the hardest working wide players in the Premier League across his time with Everton and a player that Raphinha competes with for a place in the Brazil side.

Raphinha's duel success rate of 42.6 per cent falls just short of Richarlison's 43.4 per cent, since the winger's league debut for Leeds on October 19, 2020, while the pair have won the same number of tackles (42), albeit Richarlison's success percentage of 59.7 compared to Raphinha's 54.1 puts him ahead in that regard.

Nevertheless, whichever club gets Raphinha is buying not just attacking output, but defensive steel.
 

Top-class creativity 

As mentioned, Raphinha's attacking output is up there with the best the Premier League has had to offer in recent seasons, especially when Leeds' struggles last season are taken into account.

Only four forwards have created more goals in the competition than Raphinha since his Premier League debut, and just one – Tottenham star Son Heung-min (131) – has created more chances in total than his tally of 129.

Of those opportunities, 85 came from open play, ranking him third in the division's attackers behind Mane (93) and Mohamed Salah (101), with his 22 big chances trailing only Salah and Harry Kane (both 26).

 

Raphinha has attempted 286 dribbles, the third-highest total in the league behind Adama Traore and Allan Saint-Maximin, though his success rate (41.3) trails some way behind that duo.

Four forwards had more than Raphinha's 155 shots, though his conversion rate of just under 11 per cent shows an area of improvement if he is to succeed at one of Europe's elite clubs.
 

World Cup hopes

It was in Portugal, not his homeland, that Raphinha made his name, but ahead of Qatar 2022, he seems a shoo-in to make Tite's squad.

He has won nine caps since his first selection in October last year, when he assisted twice on just his second appearance in a 3-1 win over Venezuela before scoring twice on his full debut in a 4-1 rout of Uruguay. Raphinha's third international strike came in a 4-0 defeat of Paraguay.

While a place on the plane to Qatar should be secured, barring injury, Raphinha will be determined to ensure he is fighting for a place in Tite's starting XI.

Brazil's coach has plenty of options to choose from for both flanks; the aforementioned Richarlison and Jesus can play central or wide, while Real Madrid star Vinicius Junior is surely a certainty to start on the left. Ajax's Antony, Madrid's Rodrygo and Arsenal's Gabriel Martinelli and Everton, now back in Brazil with Flamengo, are all likely to be in that fight, too. 

Should he get his move to either London or Barcelona, Raphinha will get the opportunity to show Tite he truly can perform on the biggest stage.

Neither Barcelona nor Chelsea have presented an offer to Sevilla for sought-after centre-back Jules Kounde, according to the Spanish club's sporting director Monchi.

Kounde attracted interest from Chelsea last year and Sevilla acknowledged at the time they rejected at least one offer for the defender.

While the fee involved then is unclear, Sevilla were reportedly holding out for as close to the France international's €80million (£68m) release clause as possible.

Indications this year are that Sevilla have relaxed their stance slightly, with suggestions their asking price is close to €70m (£60m).

Such figures would appear to be out of Barcelona's reach given their financial problems, though Blaugrana president Joan Laporta has been frequently talking of activating "levers" – such as selling off TV rights and half of their merchandising business – to inject capital and ensure the club remains competitive in the transfer market.

Monchi seemed to acknowledge Barca's interest in Kounde, as he distanced himself from criticism of Laporta's dealings in trying to ease the club's economic woes.

"Xavi has good taste, but there are zero contacts with Barca," Monchi told Onda Cero. "As for their 'levers', everything that fits the rules of the game [is fine] ... You have to be innovative, have inventiveness."

But it would appear Chelsea are focusing their efforts on other targets first as well, despite an apparent necessity to get centre-backs in after seeing Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger depart.

"[Chelsea] have to look for two or three central defenders. They don't have many, but there are also more English clubs and clubs from other countries that are looking for central defenders," Monchi continued.

"There are calls from everywhere. The money is starting to roll in a bit. It's what we have left until August 31.

"There is interest. Jules has had a good season, he has established himself in the French team, he's going to go to the World Cup – that has made more clubs interested.

"Directly, there has been little movement, but his name is marked with a fluorescent highlighter in the sports directorates of important clubs.

"Kounde is in the United States. He will join us in South Korea a little later and I don't know what will happen tomorrow.

"There is movement around Kounde, yes. Many teams are looking for central defenders. Let's see what happens."

Sevilla have already seen one important player leave, with Kounde's centre-back partner for the past three years – Diego Carlos – moving to Aston Villa.

Galatasaray defender Marcao was rumoured to be his replacement, and Monchi confirmed there is an interest in the 26-year-old.

"Marcao is a centre-back that is among the names we have considered," he said. "From then on, obviously, he is not the only one. I always try to work with alternatives.

"He has passed all the filters we have to decide and is on that final list of players. He's a centre-back who may only seem aggressive, but he's left-footed with a very good touch, with personality... He's an interesting centre-back who meets the profile we have in mind."

Barcelona have announced the signing of Andreas Christensen on a free transfer from Chelsea.

The centre-back has moved to Camp Nou after his contract with Chelsea expired at the end of June.

Denmark international Christensen has agreed a four-year deal that includes a €500millon buy-out clause. 

Christensen had been linked with Barca for some time after it began to look likely he would not extend his stay in west London.

Barca president Joan Laporta confirmed on Saturday that Christensen's deal would be officially completed and announced this week.

He becomes Barca's second signing of the transfer window, with Franck Kessie's move from Serie A champions Milan – also on a free transfer – having been confirmed earlier on Monday.

Christensen joined Chelsea from Brondby back in 2012 and made his professional debut two years later, but it was only after a two-year loan spell with Borussia Monchengladbach that his Blues career began to take off.

He has made 167 appearances for the club in all competitions, including 26 last season, scoring four goals in total.

A Champions League, Europa League, Club World Cup and UEFA Super Cup winner in his Stamford Bridge career, Chelsea won 92 of the matches in which Christensen featured.

With Christensen and Kessie on board, Barca's focus seems to be on completing a move for Leeds United winger Raphinha.

Chelsea have reportedly agreed a fee with Leeds for the Brazil international, but Laporta insisted Raphinha has indicated he instead wishes to join Barca, who are hopeful of striking a deal despite their financial issues.

Barca are also in talks with Ousmane Dembele over a new deal, with the France winger now a free agent, while Manchester United have an interest in Blaugrana midfielder Frenkie de Jong.

Barcelona have confirmed the signing of Franck Kessie on a free transfer following the end of his spell with Milan.

The midfielder has agreed a four-year deal with the Blaugrana, which was made official on Monday following months of speculation.

Kessie spent five seasons at San Siro, the first two of those on loan, and helped Milan to their first Scudetto triumph in 11 years in his final campaign with the club.

He played in 31 of Milan's 38 Serie A matches and scored six goals from midfield, a tally only bettered by Zlatan Ibrahimovic (eight), Rafael Leao and Olivier Giroud (both 11).

However, fresh terms could not be agreed between the Rossoneri and Kessie, meaning the Ivory Coast international became a free agent on July 1.

Barca were always considered the strong favourites to land the 25-year-old, whose Camp Nou contract contains a €500million release clause.

 

Kessie will compete with the likes of Sergio Busquets, Pedri, Gavi and Frenkie de Jong for a midfield spot, though the latter is expected to join Manchester United.

In all, Kessie played 174 Serie A games for Milan since initially joining from Atalanta in June 2017, with Napoli's Piotr Zielinski (179) the only midfielder to feature more times.

Barcelona have confirmed the signing of Franck Kessie on a free transfer following the end of his spell with Milan.

The midfielder has agreed a four-year deal with the Blaugrana, which was made official on Monday following months of speculation.

Kessie spent five seasons at San Siro, the first two of those on loan, and helped Milan to their first Scudetto triumph in 11 years in his final campaign with the club.

Paulo Dybala's time at Juventus ended in a way where neither party was ultimately happy with the outcome.

Despite his desire to stay, the Bianconeri were unwilling to keep the Argentina forward, allowing his contract to run down.

Reports suggest his next destination will not be in Serie A but in the Premier League, with a number of clubs showing interest.

 

TOP STORY – MANCHESTER UNITED, ARSENAL AFTER DYBALA

Arsenal and Manchester United are set to engage in another transfer battle over Dybala, according to La Repubblica.

With the Premier League giants already in the race to sign Dybala's compatriot Lisandro Martinez from Ajax, it has been reported the two clubs have been in contact with his agent Jorge Antun.

The 28-year-old is available as a free agent with his contract at Juventus expiring this off-season, and a move to Inter stalling after Romelu Lukaku's transfer.

Reports suggest United are looking at Dybala as a replacement for the departed Cristiano Ronaldo, whose signing at Juventus coincidentally signalled the beginning of the end for the former in Turin.

 

ROUND-UP

- Meanwhile, United and Barcelona have reportedly agreed on a fee for Frenkie de Jong but are now in process of negotiating add-ons, according to Fabrizio Romano.

- Bernardo Silva has told his agent he wants to go in the opposite direction and leave Manchester City for Barcelona, Sport is reporting.

- Chelsea are making progress in their attempts to sign Matthijs de Ligt after Juventus lowered their asking price, per CBS Sports.

- Leeds United have opened talks with RB Leipzig over midfielder Tyler Adams, The Sun is reporting.

New York RB moved to top spot in the Eastern Conference in the MLS, defeating Sporting KC 1-0 on Sunday.

Gerhard Stuber's side looked to absorb pressure for the majority of the match and captain Aaron Long put them ahead in the 53rd minute, heading in at the back post after a finely worked corner routine.

Choice became necessity after a VAR review that forced Sean Nealis off in the 73rd minute, but they were able to hold out against a Sporting KC that failed to penetrate in possession.

The win makes for the first time NYRB have managed consecutive wins in the MLS since April, also putting them on 32 points, now two points clear of Philadelphia Union.

The Union were in a similarly dour contest, generating only two shots in the penalty area from open play in a goal-less draw away to Columbus Crew.

The Crew had an opportunity to take the lead in the 19th minute, only for Andre Blake to save Pedro Santos' penalty.

New Yoirk City are a further point back on 29 points, after they played out a 2-2 draw at home to Atlanta United, while the New England Revolution and Cincinnati also managed a 2-2 draw.

In the Western Conference meanwhile, Real Salt Lake critically slipped up in a chance to make up ground following LAFC's loss on Saturday, going down 3-2 to Minnesota United.

RSL were down 3-0 at one stage until Jefferson Savarino inspired a dramatic late fightback, scoring and assisting for substitute Anderson Julio within a five-minute span.

It was not enough however, with LAFC maintaining a five-point gap to second-placed Austin FC.

Elsewhere in the West, Nashville and Portland Timbers played out a 2-2 draw, while Houston Dynamo lost 2-1 at home to Charlotte FC.

In Sunday's final game, the San Jose Earthquakes defeated the Chicago Fire 2-1 via Benjamin Kikanovic's brace, with his first coming after the Quakes extraordinarily hit the frame of the goal twice in the same passage.

Harbour View FC claimed their fifth Premier League title 6-5 on penalties over first-time finalists Dunbeholden in the 2022 Jamaica Premier League final at Sabina Park on Sunday.

Francisco Trincao has returned to Barcelona after Wolves opted against triggering their purchase option.

The 22-year-old winger joined Wolves on loan last July, reportedly paying £5.1million (€5.9m) to borrow him for the season.

As part of the deal, Wolves secured an option to buy the Portugal international for £25million (€29m) at the end of the loan, but that rarely looked a realistic outcome.

Trincao featured 28 times for Wolves in the Premier League, though only 16 of those appearances were as a starter, and he had a hand in just four goals.

Despite Wolves letting Trincao return to Barcelona, they will – according to a report published on Sunday by the West Midlands-based Express and Star – receive 20 per cent of his next transfer fee.

He heads back to Barca with his future at Camp Nou unclear, as the club are keen to offload deadwood amid something of a financial crisis.

Barca reportedly spent €31million in January 2020 to bring Trincao to the club from Sporting Braga, but his impact has been largely minimal.

The next edition of the Africa Cup of Nations will take place in January and February 2024, rather than between June and July 2023, according to CAF president Patrice Motsepe.

Africa's premier international tournament was due to be held in Ivory Coast during the European off-season next year, but the threat of heavy flooding in the country at that time of year means it will again take place midway through the club campaign.  

Speaking in the Moroccan capital Rabat, where a meeting of the CAF Executive Committee was taking place, Motsepe said: "We cannot take the risk.

"January is not the ideal time because of the European clubs, but it is the only choice we have."

In 2017 CAF announced its intention to play the tournament at the end of the European club season.

However, this year's edition, won by Senegal in February, was twice rescheduled after being slated to start in both June 2021 and June 2022, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic and adverse weather conditions in Cameroon.

The move is unlikely to be popular with several big-name club coaches, with Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp one high-profile critic of the decision to play the most recent tournament at the height of the European season.

CAF Secretary-General Veron Mosengo-Omba, however, insisted the contrasting weather conditions across the continent meant a permanent switch to a January-February tournament was not on the cards.

CAF also announced the creation of an African Super League on Sunday, with the first edition of the 24-team tournament, which will run alongside the African Champions League, slated to begin in August 2023. 

Nice president Jean-Pierre Rivere harbours no ill-will towards Christophe Galtier, who he hopes the best for at Paris Saint-Germain.

Galtier left Nice on June 27 and is expected to replace Mauricio Pochettino at PSG.

The former Lille coach enjoyed a fine start to his single season in the south of France, with Nice flying high in Ligue 1 and embarking on a run to the Coupe de France final, beating PSG en route.

However, Nice were unable to keep up their push for Champions League qualification and ultimately had to settle for fifth place, while they were defeated 1-0 by Nantes in the Coupe de France final in May. 

Nevertheless, Rivere is happy that Galtier has the chance to coach a star-studded PSG team, and believes the impending move suits all parties.

He told L'Equipe: "I am very happy that Christophe has the opportunity to coach PSG and I will always keep a watchful eye on him.

"This alignment of the planets is good for everyone."

Galtier did not reportedly see eye to eye with Nice sporting director Julien Fournier, and Rivere conceded there were issues at the club.

"There were these tensions that should not have been expressed in the press," he added.

"It may seem very confusing, but we analysed the situation calmly and I was able to explain my strategy to [INEOS director of sport] Dave [Brailsford].

"Nice must project itself with an offensive style, from the training centre to the first team. The pleasure we had at one time has been lost over the last three years."

Lucien Favre, who enjoyed success at Nice between 2016 and 2018, has been appointed as Galtier's successor.

Robert Lewandowski's status and Sadio Mane's transfer have taken up the majority of attention at Bayern Munich this close season.

Meanwhile, Serge Gnabry's uncertain future has lurked in the background, despite his importance to the team in recent seasons.

Reports suggest he is set to leave for the Premier League sooner rather than later, with a number of clubs showing interest.

 

TOP STORY – PREMIER LEAGUE CLUBS QUEUE FOR GNABRY

Arsenal and Manchester United are both preparing to sign Bayern Munich's Serge Gnabry, according to the Daily Star.

According to reports, Gnabry is set to run down his contract after rejecting terms for a renewal, with one year left on his deal.

This leaves Bayern with compromised leverage as time becomes a luxury, despite their desire to cash in this window, instead of letting him go for free at the end of next season

While Arsenal and United are preparing a £40million (€46.4m) bid, The Sun is also reporting Gnabry would become a priority for Manchester City if Raheem Sterling leaves.

 

ROUND-UP

- Meanwhile, the Gunners and United are engaging in a bidding war for Ajax's Lisandro Martinez, according to the Daily Mail.

- Martinez's team-mate and compatriot Nicolas Tagliafico is attracting interest from Brighton and Hove Albion and Lyon, per Fabrizio Romano.

Barcelona have no intention to sell Frenkie de Jong to United but are looking for the midfielder to take a pay cut, Diario AS reports.

Mohamed Salah was prepared to join Chelsea before Liverpool made him the highest-paid player in their history, The Sun is reporting.

The Seattle Sounders moved to fourth spot in the Western Conference in the MLS, defeating Toronto FC 2-0 on Saturday.

With Raul Ruidiaz still unavailable due to a hamstring injury, Dylan Teves's 39th-minute goal opened the scoring for the Sounders in his first MLS start, before Fredy Montero scored in the 60th minute.

Teves was left with a relatively simple finish to make it 1-0, tapping in from close range after some fine individual work from Leo Chu.

Brian Schmetzer's side did not face much trouble following Teves' opener, with Montero's goal sealing a sixth MLS win from ten games since they claimed the CONCACAF Champions League in May.

Meanwhile in the West, Los Angeles FC opened the door for Austin FC and Real Salt Lake, losing 1-0 to the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Andres Cubas kept the Whitecaps within touching distance of the playoff spots, coolly finishing from just outside the penalty area in the 89th minute after a chaotic passage of play.

LAFC still hold respective five and seven-point gaps to Austin and Salt Lake atop the Western Conference, with the latter two still to play on Sunday and Monday.

Rafael Marquez is set to return to Barcelona as head coach of the Blaugrana's B team, club president Joan Laporta has confirmed.

The former defender, widely considered one of Mexico's greatest ever players, won La Liga four times and lifted the Champions League trophy twice with Barcelona between 2003 and 2010. 

He also won 147 caps for his country and appeared at five consecutive World Cups between 2002 and 2018, making his final professional appearance in El Tri's round-of-16 loss to Brazil in Russia four years ago.

The 43-year-old is now set to follow in the footsteps of Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique by coaching Barcelona B, who play in the third tier of the Spanish league system.

Speaking at an event in S'Agaro, Laporta said: "Rafa in principle had [agreed] to be the coach of Barca Atletic last year, [but] he had a situation that prevented him from doing so.

"Now this has already been resolved and Rafa will be the coach of Barca Atletic next season. 

"I am especially happy because I had Rafa as a player, he is a person with a great personality, captain of the Mexican team, and who was part of one of the best Barca [teams] in history."

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