Real to chase Pogba ‘with everything’; Zidane wins Eriksen battle

Zinedine Zidane has won the battle to make Manchester United’s Paul Pogba his primary midfield target this summer, according to reports.

It looks like being a busy summer of change at Real Madrid with Luka Jovic and Eden Hazard already confirmed ahead of the new season.

With their attentions now turning to central midfield, Marca‘s front page splash on Tuesday (via Sport Witness) is all about Pogba with Los Blancos ready to fight for the France international ‘with everything’.

Pogba is one of a number of midfielders linked with Madrid, including Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen and Ajax’s Donny van de Beek but Zidane does not want ‘Eriksen, Van de Beek or anyone else’.

United are believed to value Pogba at €150million with Real keen to get the price down and Pogba is understood to be ‘willing to pressure’ the Red Devils into letting him go.

Marca add that agent Mino Raiola is ‘in charge of the operation,’ while Real are thought to be keen on getting Gareth Bale involved in an attempt to bring Pogba’s asking price down.

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Pogba says he’s ‘judged differently’ over £89m Man Utd fee

Paul Pogba thinks he is “judged differently” than other players at Manchester United because of the huge transfer fee the club paid for him.

The Red Devils took Pogba from Juventus in 2016 in a record £89million deal but three seasons later, the France star is said to be keen to leave Old Trafford.

Pogba has been linked heavily with a move away from United this summer with Real Madrid and Juventus reportedly interested.

And the France international believes he is especially harshly judged as he is a midfielder whereas forwards such as Neymar and Kylian Mbappe – who have also commanded large fees –  don’t receive the same level of criticism.

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“Because it was the biggest transfer in history at the time, you get judged differently,” Pogba told the LifeTimes podcast. “They expect more from you because of the price tag.

“A good game would be a normal game. A top game would be a good game.

“It’s a big amount. It went down when other transfers came, so it’s fine. I think it’s also because I’m a midfielder.

“People see more strikers because they score goals, so that’s why it made such a big impact. I don’t think [Neymar and Mbappe] get it because they’re strikers.

“I knew it would come with it. I knew there would be a big impact. But I didn’t know it would go so negative. When I signed, I wasn’t used to seeing so many negative comments.

“It was a big change. I was surprised. I didn’t know a price tag would change so much for people.

“Maybe they think I have the money. It’s not me – I don’t have the money. I don’t know [the reason for the criticism]. I wish I knew so I could help them get the answer.”

 

Coutinho makes Barca admission amid Man Utd, Chelsea links

Philippe Coutinho admits that he has been disappointed with his performances since swapping Liverpool for Barcelona.

Coutinho joined Barca in January 2018 for an initial £105m, with a portion of the £37m in add-ons already met through his two La Liga titles and 21 goals in 75 appearances.

But he has struggled to settle at the Nou Camp, with Liverpool chairman Tom Werner suggesting he “probably regrets his decision” to leave.

Recent reports have linked Coutinho with a move back to the Premier League, with Manchester United and Chelsea both linked over the last week.

The 26-year-old started all but one of the club’s 12 Champions League games this season, but was either benched or out of the squad completely for 16 La Liga games.

“I have not had a good season,” Coutinho told Marca.

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“My performances have been a lot worse than I expected they would.

“The only way to improve and gain confidence is through hard work, and I have been working hard.”

However, Brazil captain Thiago Silva knows Coutinho’s ability and reckons that the playmaker can step into Neymar’s shoes, with the PSG forward ruled out of the Copa America.

“Coutinho had a difficult season in Barcelona,” Silva said. “It was demanding and they booed him many times, but here in the team he is our reference, especially when we don’t have Neymar.

“Coutinho calls the game. In the two friendlies we played he was the best player on the pitch, not only because of passes and goals, but also with his defence. He is finding his happiness again.

“I’m very happy and not at all uncomfortable talking about this player because we are very close. In the first friendly, I tried to pass him some calmness, and I told Neymar also to give him help.

“We need him, especially now with the absence of Neymar.”

 

Fernandes aims dig at media over fresh Man United links

Bruno Fernandes is open to leaving Sporting Lisbon for “a team that you can’t refuse”.

Fernandes has been linked with most of Europe’s top clubs, as well as Manchester United.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side reportedly blew Tottenham out of the water with a huge offer last week, while Liverpool have also been linked.

Italian radio station Radio Rossonera claimed that United were ‘working on the last details’ of a £62m move on Monday, with the deal ‘very close’ to completion.

But the 24-year-old seems to be tired of the speculation, stating: “I don’t need to move.”

“I know nothing, I will take the next few days to understand what is true,” he told Sport Mediaset.

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“We know that newspapers sometimes have to make a show to move the market and sell. I’m calm, I’m at a big club. I don’t need to move, I’m not trying to leave.

“If the opportunity comes to go to a team that you can’t refuse, I’ll talk to Sporting.”

Asked directly whether a return to Italy with Inter Milan was feasible, he replied: “I had a great time in Italy, I still watch the Italian championship: both Inter and the others, I follow them all.

“I do not know if their interest is true, but Inter are a great team, they have history.

“They have a great coach who has made history with Juventus, he has done well with their national team, but the other teams will strengthen as well.”

 

England star buzzing after Southgate commitment

Eric Dier believes it is “fantastic” that England manager Gareth Southgate has distanced himself from a return to club football as the Three Lions set their sights on Euro 2020 glory.

On the eve of their Nations League third-place play-off win, on penalties against Switzerland, it was put to Southgate that he was a name linked with the manager’s role at Chelsea.

It is little surprise that the former Middlesbrough boss has been on several shortlists for elite posts after he guided England to the World Cup semi-finals last summer.

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He followed that up with qualification for the inaugural Nations League finals and, after falling to Holland in the final four, England secured third place with a 6-5 shoot-out win following a goalless draw in Guimaraes.

Attention now turns to going one better at the European Championships, with Dier pleased that Southgate’s future has been put to bed a year before the tournament.

“Yes, it’s fantastic,” the Tottenham man said when asked if it was good that Southgate had rubbished rumours of his departure.

“He has shown his commitment which is a great thing for us. I think it’s great. We are all really happy with the manager and everything he does for us.

“The way he carries himself, the way he looks after us. The relationship between the players and the manager is fantastic.

“He has built an incredible relationship between us and the fans, the nation. The way he acts is something that we as players look up to and follow. He does things in the best way.”

If England go all the way at Euro 2020, the semi-final and final will see them on home turf at Wembley.

That is something else Dier, who played frequently at the national stadium with Tottenham while their new ground was under construction, is looking at as a positive as he heads for his summer break.

“It doesn’t really matter where the Championships are being held, you want to win it,” he added. “But being in England does make it extra for us. Hopefully we can get to the semi-finals and final and the fans can play a huge part.

“It would be something of a plus to be playing those games at Wembley in front of our own fans. The support will be fantastic and there will be more of a push than if we were playing in a different place.”

Pogba ‘agrees Juventus return’ – but there’s one problem…

Paul Pogba has already agreed a return to Juventus – but the Serie A champions will have to raise some funds before buying the Manchester United midfielder.

The Red Devils took Pogba from Juve in 2016 in a record £89million deal but three seasons later, the France star is said to be keen to leave Old Trafford.

Pogba has spoken of his ‘dream’ to play for Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid but the Spaniards have already spent a huge sum on Luka Jovic and Eden Hazard and they are said to be looking at Christian Eriksen as a cheaper alternative.

Corriere dello Sport claims Pogba has instead agreed to return to Juve – but the Italians are also struggling to afford the 26-year-old.

Juve, who are likely to appoint Maurizio Sarri as their new coach, will have to raise the money through player sales. Tuttomercato claims the Old Lady will look to make £97.81m, with Mario Mandzukic, Joao Cancelo, Juan Cuadrado and Mattia Perin all available.

Manchester United have publicly insisted that Pogba is not for sale but reports suggest the Red Devils will be open to offers of over £130million.

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Tottenham put off potential defensive target for one reason

Tottenham already ‘have concerns’ about signing Marseille right-back Hiroki Sakai.

Mauricio Pochettino is eager to strengthen his right-back options this summer, with Kieran Trippier’s future uncertain and Serge Aurier still Serge Aurier.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka seems out of the north Londoners’ price range, while Youcef Atal of Nice has been linked.

Spurs are clearly making full use of the Ligue Un scouts, because Sky Sports suggest Marseille’s Sakai is also a target.

But the club ‘have concerns’ about signing a player who turned 29 in April.

He ‘fits the right-back profile’ that Pochettino wants, but the club would prefer to sign players ‘preferably under the age of 23’.

Sakai could therefore become an alternative in the event that more suitable players are not signed, and may be ‘a more serious target towards the end of the window’.

Tottenham are interested in upgrading in both full-back positions, with Danny Rose suggesting he might have played his last game for the club.

 

Arsenal launch last-minute £20m bid to rival Napoli for midfielder

Arsenal have made a late offer to rival Serie A side Napoli for Fiorentina midfielder Jordan Veretout, according to reports.

Following an indifferent spell during his time at Aston Villa, Veretout has carved out a good reputation for himself in Serie A and was one of La Viola’s standout performers this season.

That has led to interest in the player from Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli and a deal – reported to be worth around €22m (£19.89m)  – has been struck between the two Serie A sides.

The sale will mark quite the profit for Fiorentina, who paid Villa around €7m to sign Veretout in summer 2017.

But with Unai Emery seeking a new box-to-box midfielder to replace Aaron Ramsey, Arsenal are reported to have matched Napoli’s bid for Vetertout in a bid to bring the Frenchman back to the Premier League.

The Gunners were first linked with the player back in April when it was claimed they had held initial talks with the player’s agent.

Emery is being forced to work with a reduced budget this summer after the Gunners missed the chance to return to the Champions League after defeat to Chelsea in the Europa League final.

The Spanish coach now must work with a reduced budget of around £35m this summer – and L’Equipe claims Vetertout has emerged as a serious option for the Gunners boss.

The 26-year-old scored five times and laid on three other goals this season, with the report claiming Emery thinks the player would be a useful addition to his midfield.

News of Arsenal’s reported interest in Veretout comes after the club were also linked with Sampdoria midfielder Dennis Praet. He is also valued around the €22m mark, but it seems Arsenal may be set to miss out on the Belgian if their bid for Veretout is confirmed.

Veretout is contracted to Fiorentina until 2021 and, as well as Napoli, Sevilla and Roma are also said to be keen on a potential deal for the midfielder.

 

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Woodward ‘hesitant’ over Solskjaer’s £71m top Man Utd target

Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward is unsure whether to try and complete a move for Sporting Lisbon midfielder Bruno Fernandes despite Ole Gunnar Solskjaer giving his seal of approval, according to reports.

Fernandes has emerged as a primary target for a number of Premier League clubs, with Liverpool also interested.

Manchester City have reportedly withdrawn from the race to sign the midfielder, but United and Tottenham were thought to be pushing ahead with their plans.

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Both see the 24-year-old’s scoring prowess – he has 32 goals and 18 assists in 53 games for Sporting this season – as ideal to solve their respective creativity struggles.

However, O Jogo (via Metro) claims that Woodward has thrown a spanner in the works for United as he has become ‘hesitant’ over a deal for Fernandes.

The report adds that United have stalled and are showing ‘indecision’ during negotiations, despite requesting a meeting next week in Lisbon to discuss the potential transfer.

Any deal for the Portugal international would cost United in the region of £71million with Woodward keen to avoid making any more big-money mistakes.

 

Croatia 2-1 Wales: Rating the players

Wales suffered a Euro 2020 setback as Croatia beat them 2-1 on a scorching afternoon in Osijek.

A 17th-minute James Lawrence own goal and an Ivan Perisic strike at the start of the second half sealed Wales’ fate on a day when Croatia were too hot to handle.

Substitute David Brooks gave Wales a lifeline 13 minutes from time with a deflected drive and the Bournemouth forward almost equalised in the final seconds to snatch an unlikely point but it was Croatia who took top spot.

Here’s how Ryan Giggs’ men rated, according to Press Association

Wayne Hennessey: The veteran Crystal Palace keeper was caught out for the opening goal, the ball deflected past him by Jamie Lawrence, and was then given little chance when Ivan Perisic smashed in a low effort early in the second half, but did make a couple of smart saves – 6/10

Connor Roberts: The Swansea man was given the runaround by Perisic early on, but improved later and felt he should have had a penalty after joining the Wales attack on the overlap during the closing stages – 6

Chris Mepham: The Bournemouth defender had to keep a close eye on former Leicester frontman Andrej Kramaric, who looked to capitalise on any errors around the edge of the box – 6

Jamie Lawrence: Anderlecht defender turned a cross past his own keeper on 17 minutes and should have hacked the ball clear in the build up to Croatia’s second goal – 5

Ben Davies: Tottenham defender played through the pain barrier after his hernia operation was postponed, but did not look at 100 per cent especially when aiming to support the attack – 5

Harry Wilson: Derby man was switched to the right wing as David Brooks missed out, and had a great chance to break the deadlock early on when sent clear after a long throw from Gareth Bale, but shot straight at the Croatia keeper – 5.

Joe Allen: Stoke midfielder made his 50th appearance for Wales and did his best to muster some forward thinking in what was often a damage limitation exercise – 6

Matthew Smith: Manchester City youth product spent last season on loan in Holland with FC Twente, but struggled to make an impact and was replaced just after the hour – 5

Daniel James: Manchester United-bound midfielder struggled to get on the ball during the first half as Croatia dominated possession, but showed his potential when setting up a late chance just before the break. Given a breather for the closing stages – 6

Will Vaulks: Rotherham man made a first competitive Wales start in central midfield role. Had a chance to mark the occasion with a goal, but somehow failed to guide the ball past the Croatia keeper when his big moment came late in the first half – 5

Gareth Bale: Real Madrid man often came in for some rough treatment. Sent a 25-yard free-kick over and had another sight of goal on the hour when picked out by Joe Allen and cut inside at the edge of the box, but could not find the finish – 6

SUBSTITUTES

David Brooks (for Smith, 63): Bournemouth midfielder came on as part of a double substitution aimed to freshen things up. Deflected effort from the edge of the box saw him score a first senior goal to give Wales hope in the closing stages, and almost grabbed an equaliser in stoppage-time – 7

Ethan Ampadu (for Vaulks, 63): Chelsea teenager was straight into the thick of the action and full of running as he aimed to make an impact from the bench – 6

Rabbi Matondo (for James, 80): Schalke winger came on for the closing stages after Wales had pulled a goal back, but little opportunity to conjure something late on – 5

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