Barcelona Remain Keen on Fabián Ruiz But Signing New Striker Is Top Priority

​Barcelona are still keen on a deal for Napoli midfielder Fabián Ruiz, but they are not prioritising a move for the Spaniard – as they would prefer to focus on signing a new striker.

The 23-year-old enjoyed an impressive debut season in Naples, but it was his stellar performances in the summer’s Under-21 European Championship which saw Fabián fire his way onto the radar of a number of European giants.

FBL-EURO-U21-ESP-GER

​Barcelona were one of those sides tracking him after the conclusion of the tournament and, according to ​AS, they still remain keen, but their abundance of central midfielders means recruiting Fabián is not currently a top priority.

They will instead focus on bringing in a new striker, having drawn up a ​seven-man shortlist of potential replacements for ​Luis Suárez which includes the likes of ​Kylian Mbappé and ​Harry Kane.

Barcelona are also ready to move for a new centre-back if Samuel Umtiti cannot shake off his lengthy injury struggles but, once those two positions are taken care off, they will then turn their attention to midfield.

As it stands, Barcelona have plenty of central midfielders at their disposal, although the club expects that number to drop significantly by the end of the season. 

The likes of ​Ivan Rakitic, ​Arturo Vidal and Sergio Busquets could all grow frustrated with their reduced role this season, and the departures of all three would certainly leave Barcelona light in that department.

Rakitic is expected to be the first out the door. ​Calciomercato claim that both ​Manchester United and ​AC Milan are willing to offer the Croatian an escape route in January, which could accelerate Barcelona’s pursuit of Fabián.

Ivan Rakitic

When they do decide to act on their desire for a new central midfielder, the ​Napoli man is expected to be near the top of their wish list, given Barcelona have followed him for over four years already.

However, at the minute, Barcelona feel as though there are more urgent matters to attend to, but they are still expected to pursue Fabián – particularly if rumoured interest from rivals Real Madrid comes to fruition.


For more from Tom Gott, follow him on Twitter!

Let’

Massimiliano Allegri Eyes Reunion With Patrice Evra If He Takes Over at Manchester United

​Former Juventus manager is keen to reunite with Patrice Evra at Old Trafford if he becomes the Manchester United boss in the near future.

Current manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is under immense pressure after an abysmal start to the season, and it has been speculated that the Norwegian could soon be relieved of his duties if his side fail to improve.

United have picked up just nine points from their opening eight Premier League games, and sit 12th in the table.

Massimiliano Allegri,Patrice Evra

Allegri is believed to be a leading candidate for the role, and the ​Daily Mail claim that, if he got the job, he would want to work alongside Evra once more. The Frenchman is a popular figure at Old Trafford, and he forged a strong bond with Allegri when the pair combined to win two ​Serie A titles with ​Juventus.

​Tottenham are also considering a move for Allegri should Mauricio Pochettino leave the club, but it appears as though he has begun making plans to take over at ​United instead. 

Allegri has reportedly promised Evra that he would be included in his backroom staff at Old Trafford, although in what capacity is currently unclear. Trusted assistant Marco Landucci would likely join Allegri in Manchester, so Evra may operate more as a coach.

Regardless of the specific role, Allegri is keen for someone with Evra’s knowledge of both United and English football to come in and help him as he adjusts to life in the ​Premier League.

The former left-back recently took to ​Twitter to post a photo of himself alongside Allegri during ​Spurs’ 7-2 loss at home to ​Bayern Munich.

Bringing Evra in would certainly be a popular decision amongst United fans. Between 2006 and 2014, he racked up 379 appearances for the Red Devils, winning five Premier League titles, three League Cups, the Champions League and the Club World Cup.

If United want to return to that level of success, then they may have to part ways with club legend Solskjaer, and Allegri appears to be waiting in the wings.


For more from Tom Gott, follow him on Twitter!

Let’

International Roundup: France Held by Turkey, Ronaldo Hits 700, Racism in Bulgaria

​England inched closer to confirming their place at the 2020 European Championships with a thumping 6-0 victory over Bulgaria in a match that won’t be remembered for footballing reasons.

Tyrone Mings, Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford were the targets of abuse from the home crowd, with the referee having to enact UEFA’s protocol for dealing with racist behaviour. 

Elsewhere, France continued to stutter in their clash with Turkey, Cristiano Ronaldo had a bittersweet night in Ukraine and Kosovo continued to impress in Group A.

Here’s a closer look at Monday’s action.


Bulgaria 0-6 England (Group A)

Ivan Bebek,Jordan Henderson,Harry Kane

As a chorus of racist chants rang around the Vasil Levski National Stadium, England showed bravery and determination to decimate Bulgaria in a stunning response to their loss in the Czech Republic on Friday.

Play was stopped by officials twice in the first-half due to the unrelenting racial abuse from the stands, yet Ross Barkley, Rashford and Sterling all netted to put the Three Lions 4-0 by the break.

Barkley collected a brace in the opening period, whilst Sterling likewise took his evening’s tally to two as he slotted in after the restart, before Harry Kane rounded off the scoring in the dying embers of the contest.

Nevertheless, the real story from this encounter was the vile levels of abuse coming from the stands and England’s strong, professional response.

Read a ​full breakdown of the match here.


Kosovo 2-0 Montenegro (Group A)


Kosovo dumped Montenegro out of qualifying contention as they powered their way to an impressive win over the Brave Falcons.

Amir Rrahmani met an inswinging corner to bullet a header beyond Danijel Petvokic, with Vedat Muriqi making it two before half-time as he rounded off a devastating counterattack from Bernard Challandes’ ever-improving team.


Lithuania 1-2 Serbia (Group B)

Serbia’s hopes of qualifying from Group B remain intact (sort of), though they still need either Luxembourg or Lithuania to produce a shock result against Portugal.

Nevertheless, the Balkans fulfilled their end of the bargain with a 2-0 victory in Lithuania, ​Fulham hitman Aleksandar Mitrovic grabbing both of his nation’s goals from close-range after being teed up by Adem Ljajic for each.

Donatas Kazlauskas struck a late consolation, but it did nothing to dampen the jubilant scenes in the away end.


Ukraine 2-1 Portugal (Group B)

FBL-EURO-2020-QUALIFIER-UKR-POR

Ukraine booked their place at the finals courtesy of a 2-1 triumph over second-place Portugal in Kiev. Roman Yaremchuk gave the hosts the lead in the early stages of the encounter as he capitalised on a loose ball in the area after Fernando Santos’ side failed to clear the danger.

​West Ham United forward Andriy Yarmolenko then doubled the advantage midway through the opening half, firing home a neat cross from Vitalii Mykolenko.

That secured the Ukrainians’ safe passage, despite a late spot-kick from Cristiano Ronaldo bringing up 700 career goals for the ​Juventus phenomenon.

Read about ​Ronaldo’s incredible 700 milestone here.


France 1-1 Turkey (Group H)

Olivier Giroud

France continued to struggle against the Turkish – who beat them 2-0 in June – as they allowed a late lead to slip in Paris. 

Having been frustrated for the majority of the contest, Les Bleus found the breakthrough in the final fifteen minutes when Olivier Giroud rose highest to flick in an Antoine Griezmann corner.

However, they themselves came unstuck at a set-piece, Kaan Ayhan heading in from point-blank range with time running out at the Stade de France. That score could prove vital for his nation, with Turkey now top of the pool thanks to their head-to-head record versus France.


Iceland 2-0 Andorra (Group H)


Iceland closed the gap to France and Turkey to four points with a comfortable 2-0 home win against minnows Andorra, yet they remain massive outsiders to make it to Euro 2020.

Arnor Sigurdsson and Kolbeinn Sigthorsson did the business for the Nordic nation, though their work is far from done. They venture to the Turk Telekom Stadium in their next fixture, knowing nothing but a victory will keep them alive in Group H.


Moldova 0-4 Albania (Group H)

FBL-FRIENDLY-ALB-WAL

A valiant showing from Albania was unable to save them after France avoided defeat. Now seven points behind Didier Deschamps’ recruits, their 4-0 thrashing of Moldova ultimately proved inconsequential.

Rey Manaj, Sokol Cikalleshi, Keidi Bare and Lorenc Trashi were on target for the Eagles, the latter hitting a fine goal with a whipped effort from outside the area in Chisinau.


For more from Ed Alexander, follow him on Twitter!

Let’

Bulgaria 0-6 England: Reports, Ratings & Reaction as Three Lions Triumph Amid Sickening Scenes

England recorded an emphatic 6-0 win over Bulgaria in Sofia on Monday night to bounce back from the Euro 2020 qualifier defeat to Czech Republic. However, a resounding win for Gareth Southgate’s men, which featured braces from Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley was overshadowed by sickening scenes of racism that caused the first half to be stopped twice.

The Three Lions started swiftly and took the lead early on thanks to a great individual goal from Marcus Rashford – who was bought in for the game in place of Jadon Sancho.​ 

Marcus Rashford,Ben Chilwell

Another returning man Barkley then doubled England’s lead after some great play from ​Harry Kane and Sterling, with the Chelsea man tapping in from close range. 

The game was then paused for several minutes following ​apparent racist abuse from sections of the home support at England’s black players including debutant Tyrone Mings. Following an announcement around the stadium as part of UEFA’s protocols, the game continued. 

By the 30th minute mark, England were already home and cruising when Barkley headed home after a delicious cross from striker-turned-playmaker Kane. The game was seemingly over already.

Ross Barkley

However, the initial warning over the racism remarks didn’t seem to make any difference, as the game was stopped for a second time with disgusting abuse continuing to be hurled at the England players.

As the game resumed once again, England added a fourth when ​Sterling put the ball into an empty net following a square ball from Kane. This was the last major piece of action of a first half that was dominated by anything but football. 

Raheem Sterling,Harry Kane

After a slow restart, Sterling slotted home on the 70-the minute mark when one-on-one with the keeper after yet another pass from Kane.

The England captain got his reward for a fantastic performance, as he grabbed the sixth goal of the game with an emphatic finish with his left foot into the near post.

The game ultimately finished 6-0 but will be long remembered for the events off the pitch. 

While the England players did not walk off the pitch, their grace under the circumstances can be a major source of pride for fans. 

The FA have already called for a UEFA investigation into the affair.


Bulgaria

Player Ratings

Starting XI: Iliev (3); Pashov (4), Terziev (4), Hadzhiev (3), Zanev (4); Despodov (4), Popov (6), Sarmov (5), Kostadinov (4), Wanderson (5); Isa (4)

Subs: Kraev (6), Ivanonv (6), Malinov (6)


ENGLAND

Key Talking Point

We should really be talking about England qualifying for the European Championships. Or Kane and Barkley’s performances. Or Mings’ excellent England debut. Unfortunately we are talking about racist remarks hurled towards the England players from sections of Bulgarian fans.

Enough is enough now. Something has to be done. Scenes of Bulgarian ‘fans’ in black hoodies covering their faces, while making obscene and offensive gestures on television is simply sickening.

Ivan Bebek,Jordan Henderson,Harry Kane

The way Southgate and his troops dealt with it was incredibly inspiring and hopefully people take notice. 

Also, the fact that the match officials went through the stages of the new protocol in an attempt to do something about the abuse is a watershed moment in football. 

UEFA must use this opportunity to do something after refusing to take meaningful action for too long now.


Player Ratings

Starting XI: Pickford (7); Trippier (7), Maguire (7), Mings (8), Chilwell (7); Henderson (8), Winks (7) Barkley (9); Sterling (9), Kane (10*), Rashford (8)

Subs: Mount (5), Sancho (6), Wilson (6)


STAR MAN

Harry Kane

All the England players as a collective could stake a claim to be the star man for their behaviour in response to the scenes of racism, while Sterling and Mings also stood out as individual performers. However, Kane was once again the best player for the Three Lions, flourishing with some pacy wingers running off him.

The England captain’s all round play is sensational, summed up by a hat-trick of assists for the first time in his career. He also grabbed a goal late on which will be a huge boost for the striker who has incredibly, uncharacteristically been struggling to put the ball away in the last few games.

Most importantly though, as captain of our national team, he led his team magnificently in the heat of what was going on. He and Southgate acted bravely and brilliantly, and hopefully this is the start of change in football. A proud moment for Kane and his team, and a perfect day for the skipper in very tough conditions.

​​


Looking Ahead

England need just one point from their final two games to secure qualification for Euro 2020, with Montenegro – already out of the running – next up in November.

However, the main talking point is undoubtedly the actions of some Bulgarian fans, and the way the England players dealt with it. Looking ahead, something has to be done now. UEFA must take notice and action. The enacting of the protocol was a step in the right direction, while the FA has called for an investigation.

England as a nation can be proud tonight for several reasons.

Let’

Cristiano Ronaldo Scores His 700th Senior Goal During Euro 2020 Qualifier Against Ukraine

​Cristiano Ronaldo has scored his 700th senior goal for club and country – becoming just the sixth player ever to reach that milestone.

Following on from his strike against Luxembourg on Friday, Ronaldo scored his 700th goal during Portugal’s crucial Euro 2020 qualifier against Group B leaders Ukraine at the NSC Olympiyskiy in Kyiv.

With Portugal trailing 2-0 in the qualifier, ​Ronaldo blasted home a penalty with typical ease after a Ukraine handball. 

Ronaldo is now also closing in on 100 goals for Portugal, with Monday’s strike against Ukraine taking the 34-year-old to 95 goals in 162 appearances for the Selecção das Quinas.

At club level, Ronaldo scored five goals for his boyhood club Sporting CP before joining Manchester United in a £17m move in 2003.

He spent six years at Old Trafford where he scored 118 goals in just under 300 appearances, lifting three Premier League titles, a Champions League and even his first Ballon d’Or.


After joining Real Madrid in what was a world-record move at the time, Ronaldo went on to win another four Ballon d’Or titles, as well as 16 major club honours and the European Championships with Portugal.

Ronaldo crucially enjoyed the most prolific spell in his entire career at Real Madrid too, scoring more that one ever game to finish on 450 goals in just 438 matches.

Since moving to Juventus, Ronaldo has scored 32 goals in 51 appearances, taking his total tally in club football to 605 goals in just 811 games.

He’s also picked up 211 assists throughout that time, with his first coming as a teenager at Sporting CP in the UEFA Cup against FK Partizan Belgrade in 2002.

With Ronaldo becoming just the sixth player to ever reach 700 senior goals, the 34-year-old will now be looking to catch up with Ferenc Puskás (709) and Gerd Müller (721), targets which could be achieved later this season.

Before he hangs up his boots for good, Ronaldo could also overtake football’s top three goalscorers of all time, with Pelé (757), Romário (758) and Josef Bican (762) currently taking up those positions.


For more from Ben Carter, follow him on Twitter!

Let’