Christopher Nkunku has long been inked with Chelsea, with reports he had undergone a medical in September.

The 25-year-old Frenchman netted 20 goals in the Bundesliga last season and already has 12 this term.

The Blues are undergoing a period of change under owner Todd Boehly and new head coach Graham Potter – and could be about to land a big-name target.

 

TOP STORY - NKUNKU'S CHELSEA DEAL SET TO BE SIGNED

Chelsea are on the cusp of finalising the deal for RB Leipzig forward Nkunku with contracts set to be signed, reports Fabrizio Romano.

The Blues have reached an agreement with Nkunku's German club Leipzig for more than £52million (€60m).

Nkunku, who was ruled out of the World Cup earlier this month due to a knee injury, will apparently pen a long-term deal starting from June 2023.

ROUND-UP

- ESPN has reported that  Lionel Messi has not agreed to a deal to join Inter Miami from Paris Saint-Germain following reports that he is on the verge of a deal with the Major League Soccer club.

Chelsea are reportedly not willing to let Christian Pulisic depart on loan in January, amid links with Premier League trio Manchester United, Newcastle United and Arsenal. The Blues would prefer a permanent deal for the United States international.

- Sky Sport's Florian Plettenberg claims RB Leipzig's Konrad Laimer has reached a verbal agreement to join Bayern Munich at the end of this season, with a view to a long-term deal until 2027.

Edin Dzeko is set to earn a new one-year deal with Inter, according to Gazzetta. But the 36-year-old must accept a pay cut, from about €5.5m to €3m per season (plus bonuses).

- Ecuador international midfielder Moises Caicedo, who is currently on Brighton and Hove Albion's books, is drawing interest from Manchester United, claims Sky Germany.

- Fabrizio Romano reports Brighton are in talks with Molde to sign 19-year-old Ivorian striker David Datro Fofana. The Norwegian club want more than €10m (£8.6m) for him.

Lionel Messi is not in negotiations to seal a move to Major League Soccer side Inter Miami at the end of the season, the Paris Saint-German forward's representative has declared.

Reports broke on Sunday that claimed the Argentina superstar was close to an agreement that would see him move to the United States after his contract with PSG expires next year.

Such a move would provide a huge boost to the sport in North America ahead of the World Cup in 2026, which will be held in the USA, Canada and Mexico, with Messi previously indicating a desire to play in MLS.

However, his representative Marcelo Mendez has dubbed the reports as "fake news" and made it clear discussions are not taking place.

"It's false, it's fake news. There is no negotiation for Lionel to join Inter Miami next season," Mendez told CNN.

Messi is currently focused on leading Argentina to glory in the World Cup, having scored in both of his side's matches so far – including the opening goal in the crucial victory over Mexico on Saturday.

Argentina meet Poland on Wednesday, where victory will secure a spot in the knockout stage. A draw would also be enough if Saudi Arabia and Mexico finishes level in the other Group C match.

Lionel Messi has been linked with a blockbuster move to MLS club Inter Miami.

The Times report that the US franchise, co-owned by David Beckham, are ready to make Messi the highest-paid player in MLS history.

Messi is out of contract at Paris Saint-Germain at the end of the season and has also been linked with a move to his former club Barcelona.

 

TOP STORY - MESSI AND BUSQUETS COULD BE BOUND FOR MIAMI

Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets is set to join ex-team-mate Lionel Messi at MLS club Inter Miami, according to Cope.

The 34-year-old Spain captain is out of contract at the end of this season and has been weighing up his future at Camp Nou.

Messi and Busquets spent more than a decade together at the Blaugrana and could re-unite in Florida, where the Argentina great regularly vacations at a house he owns.

ROUND-UP

- ESPN reports Manchester United are exploring a January loan move for Chelsea's Christian Pulisic. Newcastle United and Arsenal have also been linked with the United States international by the Mail.

- Chelsea have been keeping a close watch on Bayer Leverkusen's Ecuadora centre-back Piero Hincapie during the World Cup, reports the Mirror.

- Fichajes claims that Real Madrid's German midfielder Toni Kroos has rejected the chance to move to Manchester City.

- Newcastle will move for 18-year-old Vasco da Gama midfielder Andrey Santos in January, according to the Northern Echo.

- Milan are eager to discuss lowering the €22m purchase option fee for on-loan midfielder Brahim Diaz with parent club Real Madrid, reports La Gazzetta dello Sport. The Spaniard's two-year loan deal is due to expire at the end of the season.

Lionel Messi is rumoured to become the latest superstar to move to MLS, with the Times reporting that the Argentina forward will join Inter Miami. 

Messi is out of contract with Paris Saint-Germain at the end of the season and has been continually linked with a return to Barcelona, having left the Blaugrana in 2021.

But Inter Miami are said to be "confident" the 35-year-old will sign following the conclusion of the World Cup in Qatar, where he has scored in both of Argentina's group stage matches, though he would not move until the conclusion of PSG's season.

Should the move materialise, Messi would join a host of big names to ply their trade in the United States. Here are some of the most notable examples.

David Beckham

The former England captain shocked the world when he swapped Real Madrid for LA Galaxy in 2007, though his blockbuster move certainly put MLS on the map.

Beckham made 118 appearances during his five-year spell with Galaxy, scoring 20 goals, while helping the franchise to successive MLS Cup triumphs in his final two seasons.

Thierry Henry

Arsenal and France's all-time leading scorer scored 52 goals in 135 games for the New York Red Bulls between 2010 and 2014, helping them win the 2013 Supporters' Shield and making four All-Star appearances.

Henry also coached Montreal Impact from 2019 to 2021, guiding them into the playoffs during his only full season in charge.

David Villa

Spain's all-time leading marksman became New York City's first signing when he joined from Atletico Madrid ahead of their debut MLS season in 2015.

A four-time All-Star, Villa would go on to score 80 goals in 126 appearances before departing for Japanese side Vissel Kobe at the end of the 2018 season.

Kaka

The former Ballon d'Or winner became Orlando City's first designated player when he agreed to join the new franchise in 2014.

Kaka played 78 times for City, scoring 25 goals, while he was an All-Star in each of his three seasons.

Andrea Pirlo

A multiple Scudetto winner with Milan and Juventus, Pirlo was unable to truly leave his mark on MLS during his stint with New York City.

Nevertheless, the former Italy midfielder did help the franchise reach the playoffs in 2016 and 2017, while racking up 62 appearances and netting once.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Ibrahimovic certainly hit the ground running after switching Manchester United for LA Galaxy, scoring twice on his debut in a 4-3 win over rivals Los Angeles FC, including a 45-yard screamer.

That set the tone for a prolific two-year spell for the former Sweden international, who netted 53 times in 58 appearances before returning to Italy for a second stint at Milan.

Wayne Rooney

England's all-time leading scorer helped D.C. United reach the play-offs in his first season after joining from Everton in 2018, while he will always be remembered for his last-ditch tackle and cross-field assist to Luciano Acosta that sealed a dramatic 3-2 win over Orlando City.

Rooney scored 25 goals in 52 appearances for United and, following a spell at Derby County, he returned to the franchise as head coach in July. 

Gonzalo Higuain

A league title winner with Real Madrid and Juventus, Higuain swapped Italy for the States in September 2020.

Despite missing a penalty on his debut against Philadelphia Union, the former Argentina striker went on to score 29 goals in 70 appearances before retiring at the end of the 2022 MLS season.

Lionel Messi is rumoured to become the latest superstar to move to the MLS, with the Times reporting that the Argentina forward will join Inter Miami. 

Messi is out of contract with Paris Saint-Germain at the end of the season and has been continually linked with a return to Barcelona, having left the Blaugrana in 2021.

But Inter Miami are said to be "confident" the 35-year-old will sign following the conclusion of the World Cup in Qatar, where he has scored in both of Argentina's group stage matches, though he would not move until the conclusion of PSG's season.

Should the move materialise, Messi would join a host of big names to ply their trade in the United States. Here are some of the most notable examples.

David Beckham

The former England captain shocked the world when he swapped Real Madrid for LA Galaxy in 2007, though his blockbuster move certainly put the MLS on the map.

Beckham made 118 appearances during his five-year spell with Galaxy, scoring 20 goals, while helping the franchise to successive MLS Cup triumph in his final two seasons.

Thierry Henry

Arsenal and France's all-time leading scorer scored 52 goals in 135 games for the New York Red Bulls between 2010 and 2014, helping them win the 2013 Supporters' Shield and making four All-Star appearances.

Henry also coached Montreal Impact from 2019 to 2021, guiding them into the playoffs during his only full season in charge.

David Villa

Spain's all-time leading marksman became New York City's first signing when he joined from Atletico Madrid ahead of their debut MLS season in 2015.

A four-time All-Star, Villa would go on to score 80 goals in 126 appearances before departing for Japanese side Vissel Kobe at the end of the 2018 season.

Kaka

The former Ballon d'Or winner became Orlando City's first designated player when he agreed to join the new franchise in 2014.

Kaka played 78 times for City, scoring 25 goals, while he was an All-Star in each of his three seasons.

Andrea Pirlo

A multiple Scudetto winner with Milan and Juventus, Pirlo was unable to truly leave his mark on the MLS during his stint with New York City.

Nevertheless, the former Italy midfielder did help the franchise reach the playoffs in 2016 and 2017, while racking up 62 appearances and netting once.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Ibrahimovic certainly hit the ground running after switching Manchester United for LA Galaxy, scoring twice on his debut in a 4-3 win over rivals Los Angeles FC, including a 45-yard screamer.

That set the tone for a prolific two-year spell for the former Sweden international, who netted 53 times in 58 appearances before returning to Italy for a second stint at Milan.

Wayne Rooney

England's all-time leading scorer helped D.C. United reach the play-offs in his first season after joining from Everton in 2018, while he will always be remembered for his last-ditch tackle and cross-field assist to Luciano Acosta that sealed a dramatic 3-2 win over Orlando City.

Rooney scored 25 goals in 52 appearances for United and, following a spell at Derby County, he returned to the franchise as head coach in July. 

Gonzalo Higuain

A league title winner with Real Madrid and Juventus, Higuain swapped Italy for the States in September 2020.

Despite missing a penalty on his debut against Philadelphia Union, the former Argentina striker went on to score 29 goals in 70 appearances before retiring at the end of the 2022 MLS season.

Lionel Messi is close to an agreement to join MLS franchise Inter Miami at the end of the 2022-23 European season, according to a report in The Times.

The Argentina superstar is out of contract with Paris Saint-Germain at the end of the campaign and has been continually linked with a return to Barcelona, whom he left in 2021, but The Times reports Messi will instead move to MLS.

Inter Miami are said to be 'confident' Messi will sign following the conclusion of the World Cup in Qatar, where he has scored in both of Argentina's group stage matches, though he would not move until the conclusion of PSG's season.

Co-owned by David Beckham, Inter Miami will reportedly make Messi the highest-paid player in MLS history and they are considering further additions to complement his arrival.

Luis Suarez and Cesc Fabregas, Messi's former team-mates at Barcelona, are specifically named as options, the former having enjoyed a brief second stint Uruguayan side Nacional earlier this year while Fabregas is in the Italian second tier with Como.

A move for Messi would occur midway through the MLS season, which begins in February, and would provide a huge boost to North American soccer ahead of the World Cup in 2026, which the USA will host alongside Canada and Mexico.

Phil Neville says it is "hypothetical" to discuss the prospect of Lionel Messi joining Inter Miami.

Messi is only under contract with Paris Saint-Germain until the end of the season and the mercurial forward has been strongly linked with a move to Miami.

Barcelona are also said to be keen to bring Messi back to Camp Nou in what would be a sensational return to a club he made a tearful farewell to in August 2021.

Inter head coach Neville, who signed a new contract on Monday, spoke of his admiration for Messi but refused to be drawn on speculation that he could move to Major League Soccer.

Asked about the possibility of signing Messi, the former Manchester United defender said: "I think that's hypothetical really. The best player in the world, I'm looking forward to seeing him play at the World Cup, alongside other great players.

"We actually let him inside our house about five, six weeks ago, when Argentina were here. I watched all the sessions to see those great players on our pitch one and pitch two. It was something really special for the club.

"And I think when you talk about characters, when you talk about humility, when you talk about the right type of people, that Argentinian squad and staff were absolutely incredible. Incredible towards our football club.

"We had a little scrimmage against them, the MLS 2 [MLS Next Pro] side, you obviously saw the pictures of their players signing autographs; signing arms, signing legs, signing shoes. It was just the most incredible week.

"I think we're really lucky here. We've had Barcelona here, we've had Argentina here, we've got the US national women's team here now, some of the players are training out there now. It's brilliant for this football club, and it shows the level of facility that we've got.

"I'm not going to speculate on any kind of transfer activity, but what I would say is that is exactly the type of character that I saw in that week, that those Argentinian players were a credit to their country, and to their profession."

Inter sporting director Chris Henderson also gave little away when quizzed about potentially bringing Messi to Florida.

He said: "I knew Messi would come up. It's great to be connected with amazing players and our club connected with that. I don't want to comment on someone who's not on our roster and speculation and rumours.

"But obviously, one of the greatest players to ever play the game. As far as the roster and what we're looking to improve for going for next year. I think continuing to look for players who are good in possession under pressure in the final third."

Henderson added: "Messi on any team in the world is going to change that team. I don't want to speculate and talk about him on our team, but he changes every league, every team that he plays for."

Lionel Messi is "missed by football" because at Paris Saint-Germain he does not have the same audience as at Barcelona, according to LaLiga president Javier Tebas.

Messi left Barca in 2020 after the club's financial issues led to a significantly reduced salary limit in LaLiga, thus preventing them re-signing him after his contract expired.

He moved to PSG and, after a somewhat underwhelming first season on an individual level, Messi is thriving again this season.

But Tebas' perception is Messi is wasted in Ligue 1 because it does not have the same global audience as LaLiga and Barcelona.

Speaking at the Sports Summits organised by Argentinian newspaper Ole, Tebas said: "I think Messi is not only missed in LaLiga, he is missed by football because the French league is what it is, right?

"I think that no matter how many [superstars] are at PSG, Messi is followed much less than when he was at Barcelona. Let's hope he has a great World Cup, because there we will all be able to see him again.

"I don't see all the fans watching PSG against Nantes, I don't see it. With Barca it's the opposite."

Messi's future has become a hot topic again in recent weeks, with speculation beginning to swirl regarding his next destination.

The seven-time Ballon d'Or winner has been linked with a move to MLS side Inter Miami, PSG want to renew his contract, and Barcelona are reportedly aiming to bring him back to Camp Nou.

 

Tebas could not offer any insight, but he was unequivocal in what he thinks Messi should do.

"I don't know if Messi will have one last show at Barca, that will depend on him," he continued.

"Hopefully he will come back. Above all it would also be good for him to return to Spanish football, especially to the team that has always been the team that birthed him.

"I think [leaving] was a mistake even for him, in my opinion, breaking up a marriage that was a very beneficial long-term alliance for Messi and for Barca itself."

Tebas' critical Ligue 1 comments come at a time when LaLiga's own reputation is hardly sky-high.

For the first time this century, Spain will have only one representative in the knockout stages of the Champions League after Atletico Madrid, Barca and Sevilla were all eliminated in the groups.

LaLiga was once considered the Premier League's biggest rival, but the English top flight has since moved to a level of its own in economic terms.

However, Tebas feels LaLiga still holds its own compared to the Premier League in a sporting sense.

"It is difficult for us to reach the Premier League economically, due to a population issue, but at a technological and sporting level, we are competing," he said.

"It is not necessary to see what happened last season or what may happen in this one, you have to see the last 10 seasons or more.

"Since the beginning of the century, LaLiga has won 35 European titles between the Champions League and Europa League [and Super Cup], and the Premier has won 13.

"And in the last 10 seasons LaLiga has won 60 per cent of the titles. I think we are not bad and we can withstand the pull of the Premier League, despite the fact that economically they may be stronger.

"We must remember this and not only look at how the Champions League group stage has finished this season."

Lionel Messi's potential move to Inter Miami in MLS would be even more significant for US soccer than Pele playing for the New York Cosmos, former United States international Brad Friedel told Stats Perform.

MLS has long been considered a likely end-of-career destination for Messi, but the intensity of such links has ramped up considerably in recent days, with media reports suggesting David Beckham-backed Inter are increasingly confident of luring the Paris Saint-Germain forward to MLS as early as next year.

Beckham was of course seen as something of a pioneer when he made the switch to LA Galaxy in 2007, and stars such as Thierry Henry, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Kaka, Andrea Pirlo and Didier Drogba all followed over the next decade.

But before MLS, the North American Soccer League (NASL) had served a similar purpose for ageing superstars in the 1970s and 80s, with Brazil legend Pele proving the trendsetter back then when he joined the Cosmos – Franz Beckenbauer, Johan Cruyff, Gerd Muller, Eusebio, Bobby Moore and George Best all went on to feature in the NASL before it collapsed after the 1984 season.

For all the history US soccer has with the biggest names in the sport, Friedel thinks nothing that has gone before could compare with the impact Messi's arrival would have.

"So, we had David Beckham over here, which was one of the best signings that MLS ever made for notoriety around the world," he told Stats Perform.

"And in today's day and age with social media, everyone's sort of a journalist with their phones these days, and how quickly media gets around the world.

"[Messi to MLS] would be unlike anything anyone's ever seen in this country, including when Pele was over here, just because of the way the media is.

"It would be incredible if Lionel Messi was playing in this league. The fans that he attracts, the global respect, how good he has been.

"If they can pull that off… I'm not generally [in favour of] the older player coming in [to MLS], but like [Giorgio] Chiellini and [Gareth] Bale were [signed] for a reason and [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic was for a reason, then work out that if you can get Messi, get him over here."

Although Messi's PSG contract expires next year, Inter should not expect a free run at the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner.

PSG are still reportedly confident of securing a contract extension, while officials from Messi's former club Barcelona have spoken openly about their desire to bring him back to Camp Nou.

Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly preparing to rival Chelsea in the pursuit of RB Leipzig's Christopher Nkunku, with this expected to be the forward's last season in the Bundesliga.

Nkunku, 24, burst onto the world stage this past season when he raised his goal tally in all competitions to 35 in 52 games, after previously never having scored more than seven goals in a season.

This season he has shown it was no fluke, with eight goals from Leipzig's first 11 Bundesliga fixtures, while adding another two in the Champions League, including one in Tuesday's home win against Real Madrid.

His form warranted his senior international debut for France in March, and as he is preparing to play a role for the defending champions at the World Cup, his old club have reportedly decided they want him back.

 

TOP STORY – PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN LOOK TO RECLAIM LEIPZIG'S NKUNKU

Nkunku spent nine years with PSG after arriving as a 13-year-old in 2010, earning 55 Ligue 1 appearances before being sold to Leipzig for a fee of €13million in 2019.

According to Fichajes, they now view that move as a mistake, and will look to reclaim France's new star as soon as January.

The report states both Liverpool and Chelsea are prepared to activate his €60m release clause in January, with Chelsea already said to have completed a preliminary physical in the previous transfer window, having been engaged with Leipzig in the sale of Timo Werner and an enquiry about Josko Gvardiol.

It is not known if PSG will have the funds to complete the move in January, especially while in contract renegotiations with superstar Lionel Messi.

 

ROUND-UP

– According to 90min, Bayern Munich are considering a move for 32-year-old German midfielder Ilkay Gundogan from Manchester City at the end of the season.

– Sport reports that Barcelona are in talks with Wolves about securing 25-year-old midfielder Ruben Neves, with a deal believed to be possible in January. 

– The Los Angeles Times claims Cristiano Ronaldo could come to Major League Soccer to play for the Los Angeles Galaxy, Los Angeles FC or Inter Miami if he can not find a European club.

– Calciomercato is reporting Manchester United have joined Chelsea and Barcelona with their interest in 25-year-old Ajax midfielder Edson Alvarez.

Paris Saint-Germain are prepared to pay €30m for 16-year-old Brazilian Endrick, per UOL Esporte. Endrick is playing in the Brazilian league with Palmeiras, and will not be allowed to make the jump to Europe before turning 18.

An emotional Gonzalo Higuain called time on a glittering playing career after Inter Miami's exit from the MLS Playoffs on Monday.

The former Argentina international, who won 75 caps for his country, was on the losing side as Miami were beaten 3-0 by reigning champions New York City FC.

Higuain had confirmed his plan to retire earlier this month and was in tears as he left the field, with a career that included spells with Real Madrid, Napoli and Juventus now at an end.

"I felt like what I had loved the most as a job had ended. It was half my life, my career, 17 and a half years," said Higuain, who previously spoke of plans to become a mental health coach, as he explained why he was moved to tears.

"Images from my entire career came to my mind – what I lived, what I worked, what I experienced – and I’m leaving very happy because I gave it all until today. That's the most important thing.

"The dream is over and another life begins."

A six-time domestic league champion – with three LaLiga crowns and three Serie A triumphs – the 34-year-old signed for the MLS club in September 2020.

He has left a lasting impression on the club and coach Phil Neville, having scored 29 goals in 67 MLS appearances.

"He's leaving in the way in which he should be leaving, with the goals he's scored, the happiness he's played with," said former Manchester United full-back Neville.

"The way he's embraced his team-mates and carried his team-mates is exactly what we expected. I think he can be massively proud.

"It's a massive adaptation period for any player to come to the MLS, particular when you've played in Europe, in the Champions League, to come here. I think it's a big learning curve if people come here and think it's going to be easy and it's not. 

"I'm proud to have managed him. I think as a club we're proud to have had him. He leaves in a good moment, he helped us get to the Playoffs, and he can now enjoy his retirement. We wish him all the best, and he'll always be welcome."

Reigning MLS champions New York City FC are one step closer to going back-to-back after comfortably handling Inter Miami 3-0 in the first round of the MLS Playoffs.

City were in control throughout, creating 16 shots in the first half compared to just four for Miami, but they went into halftime tied at 0-0 after hitting the woodwork three times.

In one instance, a turnover from Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender handed City's Heber a golden opportunity to break the deadlock, but his chip was cleared off the line into the crossbar, with the rebound then being hacked off the post by a second defender.

City's dominance was rewarded in the second half, with Santiago Rodriguez brilliantly working his way into the Miami penalty box before dishing it off for Gabriel Pereira to finish in the 63rd minute, before Rodriguez also set up the second goal six minutes later with a clever backheel to Maximiliano Moralez.

Heber completed the rout in stoppage time to end the career of Miami's iconic striker Gonzalo Higuain, who was playing in his final season, with City now set to take on Montreal in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

Later in the day, FC Dallas needed a penalty shoot-out to advance past Minnesota in the Western Conference.

Emanuel Reynoso's goal for Minnesota in the 53rd minute was canceled out by a 64th-minute strike from Facundo Quignon, and after 30 minutes of extra time, it all came down to penalties.

It was Minnesota's captain Wil Trapp who failed to come through with his side's second penalty, with his tame effort into the bottom-left corner being saved by Dallas' Maarten Paes, before Alan Velasco finished things in style with a cheeky panenka.

Manchester City's incredible squad depth means some players may be tempted away despite their success.

Among those is centre-back Nathan Ake, who has only managed 30 Premier League appearances since his move to Etihad Stadium in 2020, although he has made five starts this term.

The 29-cap Netherlands international joined City for a reported £41million fee from Bournemouth.

TOP STORY – INTER PLOT MOVE FOR CITY'S AKE

Inter are trying to lure Manchester City defender Nathan Ake to Serie A, claims Ekrem Konur.

The 27-year-old Dutchman has been on City's books since 2020, joining on a five-year contract.

Inter may be looking for reinforcements for their defensive stocks, with uncertainty over Milan Skriniar's future.

ROUND-UP

– Paris Saint-Germain will move again for Inter defender Skriniar in January, reports ESPN. Skriniar is in the final year of his Inter contract and may be available for a cut-price fee.

– Liverpool have joined Juventus and Napoli in having an interest in 21-year-old Rennes winger Jeremy Doku, according to Calciomercato.

– Chelsea are monitoring teenage Villarreal midfielder Yeremy Pino, potentially in the event of Mason Mount leaving the club, claims The Telegraph.

– Football Insider reports Gabriel Martinelli and Arsenal are in talks over a new deal, with the Brazilian's existing contract set to expire in 2024.

– Arsenal are interested in 23-year-old Club Brugge forward Ferran Jutgla, claims Todofichajes.

Real Salt Lake and Orlando City both claimed Decision Day victories to book their spots in the 2022 MLS playoffs on a dramatic final day of the regular season.

RSL moved above Portland Timbers into the last playoffs spot in the Western Conference with their 3-1 victory, while Orlando achieved the same feat in the east after beating Columbus Crew 2-1 after a late penalty.

Pablo Mastroeni's RSL will take on two seed Austin in the first round of the MLS playoffs, navigating their way past Portland who started the day in sixth spot, but dropped to eighth, with Minnesota United also qualifying with their 2-0 win over Vancouver Whitecaps.

Jefferson Savarino settled any nerves for RSL, who had claimed only three wins from their past 17 games, by curling in a 19th-minute opener before Rubio Rubin's deflected shot doubled their lead in the 48th minute.

Bode Hidalgo sealed RSL's playoffs spot with a classy finish in the 82nd minute, with Dairon Asprilla scoring a late consolation for the Timbers.

Minnesota, who will take on Dallas in the first round of the playoffs, got their win after Franco Fragapane's low 17th-minute drive. Jonathon Gonzalez added a second with a left-foot volley in the 77th minute to seal the Loons' spot.

Hany Mukhtar was confirmed as the MLS Golden Boot winner with 23 goals, although he did not score as Nashville locked in the five seed with a 1-0 win over Supporters Shield winners LAFC.

Teal Bunbury scored the only goal in the 53rd minute, with Nashville to face LA Galaxy in the playoffs. Galaxy beat Houston Dynamo 3-1 with Riqui Puig and Javier Hernandez among the scorers.

Facundo Torres converted an 84th-minute spot kick to send Orlando into the playoffs with a 2-1 victory over the Crew. The Lions will take on Eastern Conference two seed Montreal.

Columbus came into the game one point ahead of Orlando and had gone ahead through Derick Etienne in the 38th minute.

Junior Urso leveled for Orlando in the 56th minute before Milos Degenek's handball led to Torres' decisive penalty, condemning the Crew to missing the playoffs.

Cincinnati clinched their spot in the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, leapfrogging up into the five seed slot, with their 5-2 win at struggling DC United.

Brenner hit a hat-trick for Cincy, who will take on New York Red Bulls in the playoffs. The Red Bulls won 2-0 over Charlotte after Elias Manoel's double to secure the four seed.

Inter Miami lost 3-1 at home to Montreal, meaning Phil Neville's side slipped to the six seed and will take on reigning MLS Cup champions New York City. City beat Atlanta United 2-1 to clinch the three seed.

In other games, Seattle Sounders and San Jose Earthquakes drew 2-2, Chicago Fire drew 1-1 with New England and Austin and Colorado Rapids ended 1-1 after Diego Rubio's late equalizer for the visitors.

Eastern Conference winners Philadelphia Union thrashed Toronto 4-0 with Daniel Gazdag netting a hat-trick, while Western Conference three seed Dallas got past Sporting KC 2-1.

Cristiano Ronaldo's future at Manchester United remains uncertain after he reportedly tried to leave in the offseason.

The Portugal great has struggled to break into United's starting XI in the Premier League this term.

And Ronaldo cut a frustrated figure in United's 3-2 win over Omonia Nicosia in the Europa League on Thursday.


TOP STORY – MLS CLUB TO OFFER RONALDO A WAY OUT

David Beckham-owned MLS club Inter Miami are set to offer Cristiano Ronaldo a way out of Manchester United with a contract worth £30million per year, reports The Daily Star.

Ronaldo, who is a regular visitor to Florida, could make the move in January, with Phil Neville's Miami planning to replace Gonzalo Higuain, who announced his retirement last week.

One stumbling block, however, is that the deal is on the condition Ronaldo joins Inter on a free transfer, with United - who insisted on a fee when clubs enquired in the last transfer window - seemingly content to retain him for now.


ROUND-UP

– The Mirror claims Leeds United have agreed personal terms with PSV's Cody Gakpo, beating Manchester United in the pursuit for the 23-year-old Dutch forward. Leeds still need to thrash out a transfer fee with PSV for Gakpo to move in January.

Paris Saint-Germain have joined the long list of clubs pursuing Shakhtar Donetsk winger Mykhaylo Mudryk reports Fichajes. Arsenal, Newcastle United and Real Madrid are also keen on him.

PSG are also chasing a deal for Adrien Rabiot who is set to exit Juventus when his contract expires in mid-2023, according to Fichajes.

– El Nacional claims Real Madrid are interested in Benfica's 18-year-old centre-back Antonio Silva. Manchester United are also monitoring the Portuguese stopper.

– Manchester United's Diogo Dalot is being considered by Barcelona, who need to bolster their right-back options, reports Sport.

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