Liverpool plan to extend Dejan Lovren’s contract for a further year if he is still with the club at the end of the summer transfer window, despite interest from multiple clubs.
Lovren has only made ten appearances in the Premier League this season, and finds himself behind Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip in the Anfield pecking order.
He has not started in the league since his ill-fated appearance during Liverpool’s 3-0 loss to Watford in February, and has featured just once – from the bench against Everton – since the top flight resumed in June.
Lovren was close to securing a move away from Merseyside last summer, but a permanent deal with Roma could not be agreed – the Serie A side instead opting to sign Chris Smalling on loan from Manchester United.
However, despite his lack of minutes this season, Liverpool are not desperate to part ways with the defender in the summer. The club are likely to be operating on a tight budget in the transfer market due to the financial constraints of the coronavirus, and manager Jurgen Klopp has emphasised the need to improve his squad from within instead of spending big on new additions.
Zenit St Petersburg were recently reported to have opened a dialogue with Liverpool over a potential deal for Lovren, but no concrete offer has been made.
According to BBC Sport, Liverpool will take up the option to extend the Croatian international’s deal until 2022 if he is still at Anfield by the end of the transfer window.
Lovren’s current deal runs out in the summer of 2021, and Zenit were unaware of Liverpool’s option to extend it for another year.
This additional year could increase Lovren’s asking price – with a fee in the region of £15m quoted with the Russian outfit’s original interest.
The distant strains of the Europa League anthem can finally be heard again in north London, with Tottenham’s inevitable José Mourinho-ing of Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal putting them right back in contention for Europe’s second-tier competition.
What might be running through Mourinho’s mind? Perhaps he sees Wednesday’s trip to St James’ Park as a real cup final, a chance to take on the combined might of Sheffield United and Wolves, and challenge them for the right to travel to Krasnodar next season.
On the other hand, given the former Chelsea manager’s somewhat ambivalent relationship with Europe’s second-tier cup competition, it’s just as likely that he’ll see the Newcastle match as a relatively pressure-free opportunity to continue his efforts to stamp his mark on a transitional Spurs side.
We might see a slightly different line-up on Wednesday, as a result, as Mourinho attempts to rotate a tired squad and test out some new players.
Hugo Lloris (GK) – The lineup isn’t going to be that surprising, mind you. World Cup winning keeper Lloris’ form has – unsurprisingly – gone under the radar, and he may need to be at his best if the dangerous Allan Saint-Maximin nips in behind Spurs’ ponderous back four.
Moussa Sissoko (RB) – With Serge Aurier mourning the untimely and tragic death of his brother, there’s a good chance the Ivorian won’t play against Newcastle. It’s not a position that Spurs have significant depth in, so Sissoko’s versatility may come to the fore once more.
Davinson Sánchez (CB) – One of Sánchez’ worst moments in a Spurs shirt arguably came in the reverse of Wednesday’s fixture, as Joelinton punished his lapse in concentration. But with Japhet Tanganga not yet at full fitness and Eric Dier still suspended for going all Mortal Kombat on a Norwich fan, he should get a chance at redemption.
Toby Alderweireld (CB) – The man of the hour! Alderweireld now has a north London Derby winner to add to his impressive list of accomplishments, and with the aforementioned absences of Dier and Tanganga, is back in Mourinho’s starting XI and good books.
Ben Davies (LB) – Watching the unassuming, diligent style of Ben Davies, as he thinks about crossing the halfway line and then decides ‘nah, better not’, you wonder how it took Mourinho 57 years of his life to team up with the Welshman. The good news for us? We’ll get to watch it all again on Tyneside.
Lucas Moura (RM) – File under ‘Oh of course Mourinho loves this guy’ next to Ben Davies. Moura gives away possession more times than anyone else on the pitch, crosses a ball like he’s wearing rollerblades and hasn’t scored or assisted in his last 12 games. But he works incredibly hard in the final third and forces plenty of opposition mistakes, so that’s a bonus.
Oliver Skipp (CM) – There’s no doubting the fact that Giovani Lo Celso needs a rest in midfield. The Argentine has looked a little ragged in his last two outings, so what better time – with Sissoko shifting to full back and Gedson Fernandes nowhere to be seen – than to hand record signing Tanguy Ndombele a now rare start? While that makes sense, this is José Mourinho we’re talking about – so who are we kidding, let’s get ready for a bit of Oliver Skipp from the start.
Harry Winks (CM) – With Skipp in next to him to break up play, will the shackles be released on Winks to play in a slightly more advanced role? Possibly. If they are, expect him to run himself ragged and perhaps show Mourinho that he’s not the ideal man to have patrolling in front of the back four on his own.
Steven Bergwijn (LM) – Finishing, speed, determination and fantastic instincts – the young Dutchman has it all, except seemingly the faith of his manager. In and out the side like a yo-yo, Bergwijn should get the nod here and will give Newcastle’s right-back – whoever that may be – one hell of a workout.
Son Heung-min (CF) – Hopefully it has occurred to Mourinho that it’s a genuine insult to field Son as a touchline-hugging winger in his system, with the South Korean attacker far more deserving of a central role. There, he can get on the ball and drive at Newcastle’s centre halves – something the Magpies really won’t want.
Harry Kane (ST) – Running in behind, attacking crosses, almost catching out Emiliano Martínez with a curling effort at his far-post – Harry Kane was actually impersonating a striker against Arsenal. Encouraging signs for a man who is more in need of a strong end to the season than most, but a man who nonetheless has an addiction to silencing his critics.
Manchester United are freshly being linked with an approach for West Ham and England defensive midfielder Declan Rice, a player the Red Devils have already been talked about in connection with on and off for months.
Rice has been valued by West Ham at anything between £70m and £100m depending on differing reports and has also been linked with the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester City.
In more recent months, it has been Chelsea that have been most heavily linked with the 21-year-old, who actually started his career in the club’s youth ranks and remains close friends with current Stamford Bridge star Mason Mount.
It has been suggested that Chelsea would make their move for Rice if N’Golo Kante is to move on, with 90min revealing the Blues are willing to let the Frenchman go for the right offer.
With Spurs forced to prioritise loan and free agent signings owing to financial cautiousness, they may have to drop their interest. Arsenal have an even more publicised limited budget.
Midfield is thought to be increasingly less of a priority for Manchester United given that Paul Pogba is now expected to stay and Nemanja Matic has signed a new three-year contract. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer also has Fred and Scott McTominay to call upon, plus Bruno Fernandes further upfield.
Right winger Jadon Sancho remains the club’s primary transfer target this summer.
But Football Insider now claims that United have ‘reignited their pursuit’ of Rice following ‘extensive’ analysis of potential targets while the 2019/20 season was on hold due to the coronavirus crisis.
What’s more, the report alleges that legendary former Old Trafford boss Sir Alex Ferguson is an admirer of the Hammers talent. Whether that could actually serve to influence any real world recruitment decision remains unclear, but the claim is United will now battle Chelsea for the deal.
Transfer budgets affected by the financial impact of the coronavirus crisis will limit what clubs all over Europe can spend on new players this summer.
United are thought to have put a substantial amount of money aside for Sancho and could even seek to spread some of the cost over several years. But the rest of the summer budget will likely have to be topped up by player sales and there are no guarantees buyers will come forward.
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Manchester United Women have announced the signing of emerging Spain international full-back Ona Batlle as the club aims to improve on an impressive fourth place finish in their debut Women’s Super League season in 2019/20.
Batlle, who was first capped by Spain at senior level last year, arrives in Manchester from former club Levante on a two-year contract that can be extended to 2023.
A Catalunya native, the 21-year-old defender also spent time at Barcelona in her youth.
“It’s an honour and a pleasure to sign for Manchester United,” Batlle told the club’s official website.
“To work with Casey [Stoney] and be a part of this team is a fantastic opportunity. To have the chance to come over to play in England and really push myself as a player is very exciting. I can’t wait to meet my new team-mates and help to contribute to as much success as I can.”
United manager Stoney commented, “Ona is an exciting young full-back with fantastic pace and a real attacking mindset, her style of play fits perfectly with the philosophy we have at the club.
“She is a hard worker and broke into the senior Spain side last year which shows the talent she possesses and I know she will have a great impact for us. It’s fantastic to have Ona join the club and we’re looking forward to working with her.”
Batlle is already the second senior signing of the summer for United following last week’s capture of experienced WSL star and England international midfielder Lucy Staniforth.
The club has also been busy securing existing stars Jess Sigsworth, Amy Turner, Ella Toone and Kirsty Hanson to new contracts, while midfielder Aimee Palmer, back-up goalkeeper Aurora Mikalsen and Scotland forward Lizzie Arnot, who scored United’s first ever competitive goal following the club’s 2018 launch, have all left since the premature end of the season.
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This weekend has been all about surprises. Teams like Chelsea and Leicester City were both humiliated, but we don’t care about team results here. What’s caught our eye is the sheer number of unlikely goalscorers.
This weekend was full of “What, really? Him?!” moments. We’re used to getting one of those every once in a while, but not all at one time. The football gods are spoiling us.
Here are some of the most unlikely goalscorers from the past weekend.
Sheffield United’s David McGoldrick entered this weekend as the man with the most shots on target without scoring in the Premier League. He’d played 25 games (20 starts) and failed to find the back of the net.
Then Chelsea rocked up to Bramall Lane.
The Blues, who had only just recovered from letting Crystal Palace’s Christian Benteke net his first home league goal in 800 days, watched on as McGoldrick fired home. Twice.
It’s a Chelsea thing.
Speaking of Chelsea things, Blues academy graduate Dominic Solanke hasn’t had the best of times out on his own. He scored just once Liverpool and entered this weekend with one goal in 42 appearances for Bournemouth – none in the Premier League.
He had, after 60 appearances, as many England caps as Premier League goals.
The Cherries ran into Leicester City this weekend and soon found themselves 1-0 down. However, Brendan Rodgers’ side collapsed and allowed Solanke to put two past them in what turned into a 4-1 loss.
There were his first Premier League goals for Bournemouth, in his 39th appearance.
Michail Antonio does score the odd goal – the West Ham man had managed four in his last 22 games in the Premier League.
So, when he managed to match that tally in just 90 minutes by putting four past Norwich City, it’s safe to say that we were a little surprised.
Leganés took a huge step towards La Liga safety this weekend by picking up a shock 1-0 win over Valencia – now just three points from 17th with two games left – but what was even more surprising is that Rubén Pérez was the man who scored the goal.
The 31-year-old midfielder fired home his first league goal since May 2013 to take his all-time tally to…two. In 260 games. If you’re going to do your best to keep Super Pepino on the touchline in the Primera Division, do it in style.
Pérez bagged just his sixth career assist last weekend as well. He’s a man in form!
It’s not unusual to see Tottenham defender Toby Alderweireld pop up in with a goal, but it’s pretty rare to see him do it at home. Heading into the weekend, his last goal at home was back in September 2016 in a Champions League tie with Monaco at Wembley. If you want a goal at an actual home (White Hart Lane), you’ve got to go back to April of that year.
Guess who headed home the winner in the north London derby?
It was the Belgian’s first goal at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, and it could hardly have been more important.
When you watch Blackburn Rovers, you’ll see Joe Rothwell pop up all over midfield. He plays in the centre but is often seen out wide. Where you won’t usually see him, however, is on the score sheet.
25-year-old Rothwell has just 12 career goals to his name, and he bagged one of those this weekend in a 1-1 draw with high-flying West Bromwich Albion.
He earned himself a few new fans up at Elland Road with that goal.
25-year-old forward José Manuel Arnáiz, who plays primarily as a winger but also as a central striker, doesn’t come with the best goal record. He failed to score after swapping Barcelona B for Leganés in 2018 and was shipped out on loan to Osasuna in January.
Coming into this weekend, his last goal came back in January 2018 (for Barcelona’s first team in a Copa del Rey draw with Celta Vigo), but he finally ended the drought by coming off the bench to net in Osasuna’s 2-1 win over none other than…Celta Vigo.
If in doubt, just play Celta.
Aday does it all for Girona. He’s a left-back who can play on the right, and since the turn of the year, he has been used almost exclusively as a winger, which is an odd move for a player with seven goals in 168 appearances before this weekend.
The Spaniard fired home a lovely free kick in his side’s 2-2 draw with Lugo just seven minutes after entering the game as a substitute. Not bad.
Moving him forward was a masterstroke.
A special shout-out to Alexandre Lacazette. The Arsenal man does score goals, but almost exclusively at the Emirates Stadium. It’s got so bad that some fans want him gone because of it.
He went 510 days without scoring an away goal before he found the net in the recent 2-0 win over Wolves, but then needed to wait just eight days to do it again in the 2-1 loss to Tottenham.
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