Barcelona Eye Summer Move for Manchester United Full Back Diogo Dalot

Diogo Dalot
Diogo Dalot is a target of Barcelona’s | James son – AMA/Getty Images

Barcelona have been tipped to make a surprise summer swoop for out-of-favour Manchester United full back Diogo Dalot.

The 21-year-old Portuguese defender rarely featured for the Red Devils during the 2019/20 campaign, making just four appearances all season.

According to ESPN, Barcelona have ‘shown an interest’ in the forgotten youngster, as they attempt to rebuild after a hectic campaign.

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Dalot was restricted to cameos and cup appearances this season | James son – AMA/Getty Images

The Catalan giants finished five points behind rivals Real Madrid at the summit of La Liga following a poor run of form in the title run-in, while their season was plagued by behind the scenes turmoil.

Barcelona sacked manager Ernesto Valverde in January, Eric Abidal made some snide comments about the team in February, Lionel Messi hit back on social media the following week, six directors resigned in April and they were forced to swap 23-year-old Arthur for 30-year-old Miralem Pjanic in June as a short term fix to their financial troubles.

The club may part ways with Nelson Semedo in the coming transfer window – with Manchester City heavily linked with the fullback – and are setting their sights on Dalot as a potential replacement.

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Dalot could be a replacement for Nelson Semedo | Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

United will be looking to consolidate funds as they plot moves for long-term targets Jack Grealish and Jadon Sancho in the transfer window, although they have already taken out a £140m loan from their revolving credit facility to boost their summer spending plans.

Injuries hampered the first half of Dalot’s season, with a hip problem followed by a groin injury keeping him almost completely out of action until January.

However, even when the Portuguese right back returned to full fitness, he was restricted to cameos. Dalot started just once in the Premier League all season, and was only included in United’s match day squad twice following the top flight’s return in June.

Having joined from Porto in the summer of 2018, Dalot failed to dislodge Antonio Valencia from the starting lineup during his debut season with the club, and found himself behind Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Tim Fosu-Mensah during the 2019/20 campaign.

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Philippe Coutinho ‘Wishing’ for Liverpool Return Amid Interest in Thiago

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Philippe Coutinho is claimed to still want a return to Merseyside. | DeFodi Images/Getty Images

Out-of-favour Barcelona midfielder Philippe Coutinho continues to be linked with a transfer this summer, with former club Liverpool claimed to be his preferred destination.

The Brazilian has underwhelmed since arriving at the club in January 2018, and was loaned out to Bayern Munich for the duration of the 2019/20 season. With the German side deciding not to take up the option for a permanent deal, Coutinho’s future remains uncertain. However, he appears to be on his way out of Camp Nou this summer – one way or another.

According to Catalan newspaper Sport, three Premier League clubs in Leicester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal all hold some interest in signing the 28-year-old who is surplus to require at Barcelona.

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The Spanish club, in turn, need all the cash they can get as they plan to shift as much deadwood as possible to balance the books.

Recent reports speculate that the 2019/20 La Liga runners-up will try to sell as many as 12 stars this summer, amid financial turmoil, with Samuel Umtiti, Ivan Rakitic, Nelson Semedo and Ousmane Dembele also on the market alongside Coutinho.

However, Sport’s latest insists that Coutinho’s ‘main wish’ is to rejoin Liverpool – the club where he spent five years, before moving to Spain.

This isn’t the first time that Coutinho’s supposed interest in the Merseyside club has been reported – a few weeks ago it was claimed that the player had expressed his desire for a potential reunion, despite 90min’s earlier understanding that the Premier League champions aren’t in the race to sign him.

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Klopp is said to prefer the signing of Thiago over the 28-year-old | OWEN HUMPHREYS/Getty Images

The 28-year-old arguably played his best football at Liverpool, and may well jump at the chance to join a team who have since won the Premier League and Champions League after he left for Spain – where he’s struggled to establish himself and hasn’t come close to recreating his dazzling performances.

Yet while rumours persist of a dream return to Anfield, even Sport adds that Jürgen Klopp is still focused on signing the midfielder’s former teammate Thiago, who has expressed he wants to leave Die Roten this summer.

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Luis Suárez: The Divisive Character and All-Round Striker

Luis Suárez has been consistently one of the most prolific finishers and creators in European football over the past half-decade
Luis Suárez has been consistently one of the most prolific finishers and creators in European football over the past half-decade | 90min

History has been littered with figures who inspire a testing cocktail of emotions. These divisive characters are normally bound to the confines of fiction given the delicate complexity of a personality required to illicit both disgust and admiration from the same onlooker.

Yet, while Holden Caulfield, Patrick Bateman and Bella Swan can certainly divide a room, Luis Suárez offers a real-world example who emphatically splits opinion.

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Luis Suárez has proven to be a phenomenal footballer but has rarely strayed from controversy on the pitch | Alex Caparros/Getty Images

The chapters of Suárez’s 2014 autobiography Crossing the Line neatly highlight the controversial career of the Uruguayan. The first focuses on biting, the third is called ‘The Hand of Suárez’ while another is simply titled ‘Racist’. However, he also discusses his loving relationship with Sofia – the pair are married with three children and met when they were teenagers.

After breaking through at Uruguay’s most successful club Nacional, Suárez jumped at the chance to join Dutch side Groningen as Sofia had moved to Barcelona beforehand. As Suárez told the Liverpool Echo: “The only thing I thought about was being by her side again. That’s how my European adventure started.”

At Groningen, Suárez shed seven kilos upon arrival, threw himself into learning Dutch and rapidly became a fan favourite. Yet, in a move that may be familiar to some Liverpool fans, Suárez became incensed when Groningen rejected an offer from Ajax after his debut campaign.

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Suárez eventually signed for Ajax in 2007 once the club had upped their fee to €7.5m | Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

The ensuing transfer saga required the Dutch football association to intervene and ultimately saw Suárez make the switch to Amsterdam with the bridges he had built at Groningen well and truly burned – along with plenty of replica shirts. From adoration to incineration, this is the effect Suárez can have.

In three and a half seasons at Ajax, Suárez continued to both endear and infuriate. There has scarcely been a match throughout his career devoid of his trademark harrying and pestering. But in that famous red and white strip, the striker’s goalscoring enjoyed a healthy uptick – despite largely being deployed on the right-hand side of a classic Ajax 4-3-3.

Suárez hit triple digits during his time at the club, averaging more than a goal per game in his final full season. Yet, his last Eredivisie outing ended in ignominy as Suárez delivered the first of three bites in his footballing career during a 0-0 draw with title rivals PSV Eindhoven.

In his aforementioned autobiography, Suárez, while clearly expressing remorse, makes the rather dubious statement: “I know biting appals a lot of people, but it’s relatively harmless.”

Intriguingly, Suárez drew a parallel between the ‘unconscious’ state he was in to his instinctive finishing, explaining: “The problem is that this switching off also happens when I do something brilliant on the pitch…I’ve scored goals and later struggled to understand how exactly I managed to scored them.”

Yet, immediately following his £22.8m move to Liverpool in January 2011, Suárez struggled to find the net, subconsciously or not. Just nine league goals in his first year on Merseyside was partly down to his peripheral positioning with Andy Carroll the side’s focal point, although that soon changed.

After an impressive campaign in his first season under the incoming manager Brendan Rodgers (and more lengthy bans), Liverpool’s number seven exploded on the pitch in 2013/14. 31 goals in 33 Premier League games – not one a penalty kick – took a free-scoring Liverpool to the brink of the title.

An abiding image from that season is of a crestfallen Suárez, sobbing into his shirt at Selhurst Park as Kolo Touré leads him off the field once Liverpool’s title challenge has been all but quashed. However, one less memorable tidbit from that campaign is the surprisingly high tally of 12 assists Suárez notched up.

This creativity became a larger facet of Suárez’s game once he made his long-awaited move to an elite side on the continent, joining Barcelona in the summer of 2014. Across his six seasons in La Liga, Suárez is shooting less and assisting more – he even marked his debut against Real Madrid with an assist.

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Luis Suárez and Lionel Messi have proven to be great teammates and even better friends | Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Interestingly he has been creating fewer chances in the Spanish top flight but – given the calibre of player he is finding – these opportunities are being taken at a greater rate. If there is one player who Suárez finds more than anyone else, it is Lionel Messi.

When Suárez joined Barça he formed the final part of what would become an attacking trident fabled and feared in equal measure. The fact that Messi even entertained the idea of drifting out wide to accommodate Suárez – having forced previous teammates to the flanks – hinted at the Argentine’s respect for his fellow South American.

The next-door neighbours are also best friends off the pitch. Their kids go to the same school, their wives are business partners and when Suárez netted a hat-trick against Real Madrid in 2018, the injured Messi was babysitting his children.

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In the trio’s first season together, Messi, Neymar and Suárez scored a combined 122 goals across all competitions | LLUIS GENE/Getty Images

With Messi to his right and Neymar his left, Suárez himself admitted that he would have to do ‘the dirty work’. But, for all the goals and assists, he has never lost that relentless work ethic. No cause is considered lost, no defender is exempt from a sharp rattle around the heels if they make the mistake of dilly-dallying in possession.

Again, Suárez has been keen to distance his personal character from this perpetual irritant on the field. As he said: ‘The Luis on the pitch is nothing like the Luis off the pitch.’

At 33, injuries and the passage of time have ensured there is a little less hustle in his bustle but ‘El Pistolero’s’ potency in front of goal persists. Over the past seven years, only Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo can better Suárez’s domestic goal return (excluding penalties). In the same time period, Barça’s number nine also ranks fourth for assists in Europe’s top leagues.

The Uruguayan may be entering the twilight of his career, but there is plenty of time left for Suárez to stagger and sicken and score and assist.

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Antonio Conte Responds to Rumours Linking Lionel Messi With Inter Switch

Antonio Conte
Lionel Messi has been linked with a move to Inter in recent days | Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

Inter coach Antonio Conte has categorically put an end to any ties linking Barcelona star Lionel Messi with a move to San Siro this summer, describing the rumours as ‘absolutely fake’.

The Barça legend has grown frustrated at the current situation at Camp Nou this season, after failing to defend the league title, and slipping close to a Champions League exit at the hands of Napoli.

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Messi has become disillusioned at Barcelona | Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

These murmurs of discontent blossomed into talk of a dramatic exit for the Argentinian superstar, which in turn went into overdrive when his father, Jorge, was spotted in Milan supposedly buying a house in Italy’s economic capital.

But dreams of seeing Messi pull on Inter’s black and blue jersey have been crushed by the man in charge, Conte. Speaking after Inter’s 3-0 victory over Genoa on Saturday evening, the Italian coach dismissed any rumours surrounding a summer move for the Argentine as ‘absolutely fake’, as cited by Fabrizio Romano.

“The rumours about Leo Messi to Inter are absolutely fake. Don’t trust these fake news. He is not joining Inter, not even in fantasy football,” Conte said.

Hardly surprising, but still disappointing. Messi seems destined to end his career at Camp Nou, and even if he is unhappy with the current state of affairs at the club, it’d take something catastrophic for the pair to part ways.

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Conte watches on in Inter’s 3-0 victory over Genoa | Paolo Rattini/Getty Images

The 33-year-old has given his entire career to the Catalan giants, but he did speak out at the end of this season, claiming ‘a lot must change’ if they are to even contemplate competing for the Champions League trophy again.

As for Inter, it always seemed very unlikely that I Nerazzurri would target a move for Messi, given the astronomical wages that the forward would demand, and their need to strengthen in other areas.

So, the world’s greatest player won’t be leaving Barcelona – for now, at least.

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Premier League Clubs Absolutely Should Be Targeting Samuel Umtiti This Summer

Samuel Umtiti
Samuel Umtiti has fallen out of favour at Barcelona | DeFodi Images/Getty Images

Two years is a very long time in football. In the summer of 2018, Samuel Umtiti was renowned as one of the best centre-backs playing the game.

The French defender had just led his national team to World Cup glory, scoring the only goal in the semi-final victory over Belgium, and providing a solid base to one of the most defensively disciplined winners of the trophy in recent history.

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Umtiti was an important figure in France’s World Cup triumph | FRANCK FIFE/Getty Images

Since that moment, little has gone right for the now 26-year-old. He has since admitted that he put his body through incredible strain to participate in that international tournament, and he has subsequently paid the price for his commitment, struggling to maintain his fitness levels for the last two years.

Umtiti also lost his place in the Barça side to fellow Frenchman Clement Lenglet, and with Catalonia’s favourite son Gerard Pique completing the centre-back partnership, there seems little hope of the World Cup winner breaking back into the first team.

His latest injury setback, which forced him to miss the remainder of the season, caused him to take to Instagram to write: “I wish I could go back to the past. Not to change things, but to relive the times when I was happy and didn’t know it.”

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Umtiti has rarely started for Barcelona this season | Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

So clearly, a change is needed for the glum Frenchman. Luckily for him, he still draws plenty of potential suitors, and particularly within the Premier League. Despite his struggles over the past two seasons, Umtiti still holds plenty of credit in the bank, so much so that Premier League duo West Ham and Everton are considering a move for the Barça star.

Some may view the France international as a high, financial risk not worth taking. But they’d be wrong.

Umtiti is only 26, and with the right care and treatment at a club that desperately wants him to return to his best, he can truly thrive. With all the rumours that swirl regarding his future in Spain, and Barcelona’s need to balance the books, it’s far from a stable environment for a player who clearly is needing a bit of love.

Just ask the truly fed up Lionel Messi.

The ex-Lyon star remains an imperious defender, and after all, he didn’t lose his place in the Barça side through a dip in form, but purely through injury problems, and later, the introduction of another top quality defender in Lenglet.

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Umtiti and Lenglet in training together | FRANCK FIFE/Getty Images

Wrong place, wrong time.

But Umtiti has got what it takes to bounce back and prove all his doubters wrong. He only managed 13 appearances for la Blaugrana this season, but when he did make it on to the pitch, the then-champions only lost twice.

This Barça team is far from exceptional either, and there are plenty of flaws in every position. He’s not to blame.

So for a team like a West Ham or a Everton, who are in desperate need of a proper leader with winning experience at the very highest level – and with time on their side – they should look no further.

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Umtiti is the right man for Everton and West Ham | Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Umtiti has proven time and time again that he has the credentials to lead any team to glory from the back, and all he needs is someone to put that smile back on his face to do so.

It’s a no brainer.

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Comparing the Required Clear Out Jobs at Real Madrid & Barcelona in the Summer Transfer Window

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Real Madrid and Barcelona could both face a busy summer in the transfer window | Visionhaus/Getty Images

Now that the dust has settled on an exciting La Liga campaign, and a dramatic title race has reached its climax, we can all admit it: neither Real Madrid nor Barcelona were actually very good.

For the champions, they won’t care one jot – and nor should they. Los Merengues have worked hard, chased down their rivals for the majority of the campaign, and snatched the trophy with a superb run of ten straight wins at the end of the season.

But very few Blancos supporters could tell you (with a straight face) that this is a vintage Madrid side, and Zinedine Zidane has been forced to deal with a lot of deadwood and under-performers over the course of a rollercoaster season. In the end, they were not quite as bad as Barça.

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Real Madrid won La Liga for the first time since 2017 | Denis Doyle/Getty Images

As for la Blaugrana, where do we start? A managerial sacking, chaos behind the scenes, horrendous away form, injuries, emergency signings, and making Lionel Messi sad. That’s the biggest crime of them all.

With concerns growing over the financial stability of the club, and talk of a big injection of cash from player sales required, it could be a busy, albeit short summer in Catalonia.

So, with the new season right around the corner, what can we expect from the two clubs in the transfer market, and which players will be heading for the exit door? 90min investigates.

Gareth Bale – It might be a bit of a joke to those on British shores, but Bale’s banners and antics in the stands have only confirmed one thing in Spain – he simply doesn’t care. Whether that’s his, the club’s, or Zidane’s fault will long be argued, but los Blancos will be doing everything they can to get the Welshman out of the door again this summer.

Potential transfer fee – £40m

James Rodriguez – Another player who is just not fancied by the French boss is James. He’s been given plenty of chances at the Santiago Bernabeu, but the Colombian has not done enough to earn himself a place in the starting lineup. A valuable player on big wages, Rodriguez will definitely be in the shop window.

Potential transfer fee – £40m

Luka Jovic – Zidane rarely seems to change his mind on a player, and unfortunately for Jovic, his coach doesn’t rate his chances too highly in La Liga. Prolific in Germany, the Serbian star would attract plenty of suitors – if the price is right.

Potential transfer fee – £45m

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Jovic has struggled to impress Zidane this season | Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Marcelo – A loyal servant to Madrid, and a proper club legend, Marcelo has played an integral role in los Merengues’ success over the years. But the 32-year-old finds himself behind Ferland Mendy in the pecking order, and with the talented Sergio Reguilon returning from his loan at Sevilla, it could be time to end this wonderful partnership.

Potential transfer fee – £20m

Brahim Diaz – If Brahim left Manchester City for first-team football at Madrid, then things really didn’t go to plan. Either way, with the riches at Zidane’s disposal, the talented Spaniard is very far down the food chain.

Potential transfer fee – £20m

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Diaz could leave Madrid in the summer | Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Mariano Diaz – A good striker who would command a decent fee, Madrid could do worse than profiting on the forward, and bank on the returning Borja Mayoral as their second choice forward behind Karim Benzema.

Potential transfer fee – £10m

Jesus Vallejo – The Spanish centre-back is clearly not up to level, and his loan spells at Wolves and Granada have only confirmed these suspicions.

Potential transfer fee – £5m

Total transfer earnings – £180m

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Umtiti has lost his place in the Barcelona side to Clement Lenglet this season | Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Samuel Umtiti – This guy is way too good to be rotting away on a bench at any level. Umtiti is clearly not enjoying himself at the moment, and a clean break may be the best option for both the Frenchman and the club. He’d bring in a lot of coin, too.

Potential transfer fee – £40m

Jean-Clair Todibo – A very talented centre-back who could grow into a superstar. But if Barça’s finances are as dire as they are letting on, then Todibo turn out to be collateral damage. A risky deal.

Potential transfer fee – £20m

Arturo Vidal – Still rated as one of the most committed, experienced and talented midfielders in Europe, Vidal is attracting interest from a host of clubs – with his future seemingly Italy-bound. Cash in while you can.

Potential transfer fee – £15m

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Dembele has missed the remainder of this season through injury | LLUIS GENE/Getty Images

Ousmane Dembele – A desperately sad and disappointing situation for Barça and their French star. Signed for huge money with massive potential, injury, ill-discipline and bad luck have turned this dream move into a nightmare. There’ll be plenty of coaches who believe they can turn Dembele’s misfortune around, though.

Potential transfer fee – £50m

Rafinha – Another player whose career has been plagued by injury, Rafinha just doesn’t seem up to Barcelona levels. A good bit of business for a mid-table Spanish side.

Potential transfer fee – £8m

Martin Braithwaite – The Danish striker was the ultimate panic buy in January. Signed outside of the window following injuries to Luis Suarez and Dembele, Braithwaite arrived to plug the massive gap left by the superstars. He mustered one league goal. Move on.

Potential transfer fee – £10m

Total transfer earnings – £143m

Real Madrid

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Reguilon has been excellent for Sevilla this campaign | DeFodi Images/Getty Images

Madrid will have plenty of young players returning from loans around the world, or stars who haven’t quite hit the heights this season – but patience is a virtue. Eden Hazard has admitted that this year has been the most difficult of his career, but Zidane will keep the faith in the Belgian winger to come good next campaign.

Dani Ceballos has proven his quality at Arsenal this season, especially since Mikel Arteta has taken charge, and Zidane may be contemplating bringing him back to the Bernabeu, while the returning Reguilon and Mayoral could both brilliantly perform the role of supporting.

Barcelona

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Griezmann has endured a difficult season at Barça | Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Barça supporters must be tearing their hair out at the misuse of Antoine Griezmann this year, after spending over €100m on the Frenchman, only to then play him out of position – or not use him at all. But he is likely to outstay current boss Quique Setien at Camp Nou, and he has all the quality to be a real star for la Blaugrana.

The Catalan faithful will also have been watching Carles Alena’s performances at Real Betis this season, and now returning to Barcelona, the midfielder has all the right DNA to fight for his place at the club.

Cheque books at the ready, everyone. It’s going to be a hectic summer.

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The Bulls**t-O-Meter: Ranking How Ridiculous July’s Transfer Rumours Really Are

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Jan Oblak has been linked with a unlikely move to the Premier League | Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Domestic leagues around Europe are finally drawing to their conclusion after all the COVID furore, and although it will be a far shorter break than we’ve become accustomed to (thanks, Champions League), you can be sure it will be full to the brim with nonsensical transfer speculation.

But fear not, we’ve got you covered. The bulls**t-o-meter has been cleared as Coronavirus-secure, and is ready to run the rule over a selection of the best and worst rumours July 2020 has had to offer.

Strap in, because it’s a good one.

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Alaba is a Bundesliga champion again, but may well be on the move | Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Linked Clubs: Inter, Manchester City

Things are a bit weird at Bayern at the moment. As much as things are going well on the pitch – like, really well – you get the impression they could be approaching the end of an era, with a few previously key players poised to leave.

Thiago Alcantara, at least, seems to be holding the club hostage for a new contract/move to Liverpool (delete as appropriate), while David Alaba – having just found a new home at the heart of defence – is also flirting with the exit door.

It’s feasible to imagine Manchester City moving in, given his previous with Pep Guardiola and their need for someone reliable in central defence. Inter, meanwhile, could sign anyone over the age of 28 at this stage, and it would not be a surprise.

Possibility of Future Transfer: Likely

Likelihood of Summer Move: Moderate

BULLS**T-O-METER RATING: 3/10

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Jovic has struggled to break into the Real Madrid first team | Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Linked Clubs: Arsenal, Chelsea, Leicester, Milan, Tottenham

This season will be remembered at Real Madrid as the year Zinedine Zidane returned to end Barcelona’s domestic stranglehold, and the year Karim Benzema stepped up to the plate left behind by Cristiano Ronaldo.

It might be remembered as the year Gareth Bale took his shithousing of the Madrid press to a new level, or the year of Eden Hazard’s questionable debut season.

It won’t be remembered for anything to do with Luka Jovic, who has taken to life in Spain like an octopus to the Sahara.

A loan move to a Champions League contender is unlikely, and Chelsea even less so considering Timo Werner is in-bound. The rest of the clubs named here, you could almost see happening, in the right circumstances.

Possibility of Future Transfer: Highly Likely

Likelihood of Summer Move: Moderate

BULLS**T-O-METER RATING: 4/10

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Guendouzi saying something snide about Neal Maupay’s wages, probably | Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Linked Clubs: Barcelona, Lyon

It’s not exactly a well-kept secret that Mikel Arteta isn’t Matteo Guendouzi’s biggest fan. Arteta’s ideal player is a model professional, someone whose ability and industry on the pitch is matched only by their humility; generally not the kind of guy who struts about the pitch flaunting his wages to Brighton players.

The fact he hasn’t played a minute since defeat on the south coast does suggest he could leave to raise a few quid this summer, but it’s unclear where he might realistically go.

Loan Lyon with an option to buy? Sure. Complex swap deal with Barcelona involving Philippe Coutinho? Yeah, no.

Possibility of Future Transfer: Likely

Likelihood of Summer Move: Moderate

BULLS**T-O-METER RATING: 5/10

Wilfried ZahaWilfried Zaha
Zaha finds himself in the same situation every single summer – and the odd January | Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images

Linked Clubs: Everton, Newcastle, Paris Saint-Germain

It’s the same thing every summer with Zaha, isn’t it? Club wants player, player wants move, club demand stupendous price that far exceeds his actual value, move implodes. Player and current club fall out, then kiss and make up after the window closes. Repeat x1000.

Making a move even less likely than normal this time around is the fact he’s had a pretty average season. Four goals and five assists, despite playing virtually every minute of the league season, doesn’t exactly justify the £75m Palace will inevitably demand.

PSG might stand a chance if they’re feeling characteristically reckless, but it’s hard to see Everton or Newcastle holding any lasting interest.

Possibility of Future Transfer: Will Still Have a £75m Price Tag on His Head at 35

Likelihood of Summer Move: Low

BULLS**T-O-METER RATING: 7/10

Ismaila Sarr, Ben ChilwellIsmaila Sarr, Ben Chilwell
Sarr has made an impression in his Premier League debut | Michael Regan/Getty Images

Linked Clubs: Liverpool, Manchester United

In theory, yeah, why not? Liverpool do need wide reinforcements, and should a move for Jadon Sancho go up in smoke, United will be actively on the lookout for a right-winger of this profile. Add two and two together, you usually get four, right?

Oh wait, Liverpool really, really aren’t looking to spend any money, and no-one, even the widely cited Liverpool.com, is willing to take responsibility as the source of this rumour.

Oh wait, the only person who has ‘recommended’ Sarr to United is Gary Neville, who randomly arrived at the idea off-the-cuff on Sky Sports.

Oh well.

Possibility of Future Transfer: Highly Likely

Likelihood of Summer Move: Low to Moderate

BULLS**T-O-METER RATING: 8/10

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Milner is a newly-crowned Premier League champion – sorry, Leeds | Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Linked Clubs: Leeds

Leeds fans living in dreamland: let it go, guys. You’ll only hurt your feelings.

Liverpool fans who want him gone: what’s actually wrong? No, really, what sort of horrendous intelligence deficiency possesses someone to hold such a terrible opinion?

Milner is one of the leaders in the Liverpool dressing room, and Jurgen Klopp has said in the past that he ‘can’t imagine’ what it would be like without him. He’s also 34, content with his role in the squad, and literally just extended his contract. What set of real-life, non-FIFA-career-mode circumstances could possibly allow this to happen?

Possibility of Future Transfer: Maybe When He’s 45

Likelihood of Summer Move: No

BULLS**T-O-METER RATING: 9/10

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Oblak kicking those Chelsea rumours into touch | DeFodi Images/Getty Images

Linked Clubs: Chelsea

Swap deal involving Kepa is the rumour here.

It really is difficult to express in words just how much this is not going to happen, so we’ll settle for simply ‘this is not going to happen.’

Possibility of Future Transfer: Not to Chelsea Anyway

Likelihood of Summer Move: Minuscule

BULLS**T-O-METER RATING: 10/10

Let’

The 5 Best Second Strikers in the World – Ranked

90min
90min | Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

The second striker. The Dark Knight of the football world. A player who ties it all together, combining style and substance. The on-field equivalent of Claudio Ranieri holding Andrea Bocelli’s coat while he serenades a packed stadium. The under-appreciated star.

This role is packed with creativity, spontaneity and more often than not, inconsistency. And this final trait is what separates the great from the absolute cream of the crop. Sure, these guys might have an off day or two, but 99 times out of 100, when you’re looking for someone to lean on in the dying moments, they stand up and be counted.

A deep-lying forward, or second striker, plays to serve those around him, be it a proper centre-forward, who snatches the headlines by applying the finishing touches to our protagonist’s chiselled craft, or as part of a forward three, chipping in as a ‘false nine’.

Mboro v Arsenal XMboro v Arsenal X
Bergkamp is a classic second striker | Gary M. Prior/Getty Images

The title ‘second striker’ often varies in its terminology, and the specific role can be adapted in different forms. But from the days of Dennis Bergkamp teeing up Thierry Henry at Arsenal, or Francesco Totti conjuring moments of magic for Gabriel Batistuta at AS Roma, these players have always been very special.

And there are five guys in the modern game who have made this position their very own. Here are the best second strikers in the current world of football – ranked, for your pleasure.

It’s taken Josip Ilicic over a decade to finally find some consistency and a loving home, but at the grand old age of 32, he is finally earning recognition as one of the greatest second strikers in the business.

Working his way up from Slovenian side Bonifika, the forward completed a series of sideways moves, despite turning heads in Italy with his early performances in a talented Palermo side back in 2010. His career stalled from then on, enduring an indifferent spell at Fiorentina, before eventually landing in Bergamo. It seemed as if he’d never earn the big move that his talents merited.

As it turns out, he didn’t need it. Ilicic has dragged Atalanta to the dizzying heights of Champions League football and competing with Juventus at the Serie A summit, while scoring bucketfuls of goals.

La Dea look set to break the 100-goal barrier this season, and none of it would be possible without their creative genius, Ilicic.

When Lautaro Martinez arrived at Inter in the summer of 2018, there was a feeling that the second coming of Mauro Icardi had reached Milan prematurely. Another fiery, Argentinian striker with a nose like a bloodhound for sniffing out goals, I Nerazzurri supporters knew their future was in safe hands.

Only, the 22-year-old is nothing like Icardi as a player. He is so much more. Nicknamed The Bull, Martinez’s game revolves around doing all the dirty work at the top end of the pitch, and laying goals on a plate for strike partner Romelu Lukaku to profit.

Inter have blown teams away this season, with their dynamic duo often doing the damage, and El Toro’s hold up play and desire to run every defender into the ground is the main cause.

18 goals in all competitions so far this season tells only a fraction of the Martinez story, and it’s a tale which is destined for bigger and better things – sooner rather than later.

This man epitomises what it means to be a second striker. Roberto Firmino spent several years being overlooked and deemed dispensable in this Liverpool team – until he was taken out of it. And that’s the beauty, and the curse of performing this role.

Firmino has become the key component in Liverpool’s Champions and Premier League winning side, supplying Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah with all the ammunition they need to steamroll their opponents.

The Brazilian is so good at his job though, that he has been able to find the time (away from making everyone around him look better) to hit double figures in every Premier League campaign since arriving in 2015. He’s only one goal away from doing the same this year, but even if he doesn’t reach the magic 10, his contribution has been worth its weight in title gold.

The ultimate unsung hero.

It’s not been an easy rise to stardom for Paulo Dybala. Comparisons are often unfair on a young, developing forward, so to be likened to the greatest player in the world in Lionel Messi is as anxiety-evoking as it gets.

But la Joya has continued to work on his game, and he has grown to become the most valuable player in a star-studded Juventus side. The 26-year-old has learnt how to stamp his influence on a game, and his performances can truly determine whether I Bianconeri pick up one point or three.

With his devastating speed across the ground, his ingenuity to pull apart any defence, and a newly-found lethal eye for goal, there’s little that this man can’t do. He’d be a regular starter for any international team in the world, if only he didn’t occupy the same position as this man…

The greatest footballer in the world, so obviously Lionel Messi is the greatest second striker in the world, too. The Barcelona star defies history, logic, time, and just about every notion we have come to accept as normality in our endless existence.

Messi’s game has changed over the years, starting out as a pacy, tricky winger who loved to cut in from the right and wreak havoc and destruction. As the passing of time tried to take its toll, the rebel has adapted his game, and now begins much more centrally, looking to dictate play from deep.

At 33 years old, the Barça wizard has become La Liga’s Pichichi winner, notching 25 goals, and he also supplied the most assists over the course of the campaign, with an unrivalled 21 helping hands for his teammates. And this is all while playing in the worst Barcelona team of his generation.

Words simply don’t do him justice.

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Lionel Messi: What Else Is There Left to Say That Hasn’t Already Been Said?

Lionel Messi simply can't be matched
Lionel Messi simply can’t be matched

Lionel Messi is a genius.

One player in modern history has run him close, but for all his endeavour, he’s not Messi.

All the superlatives in the world do the man (?) no justice. Sitting here and waxing lyrical about each astronomical achievement, taking to Twitter to impose your views on his magnificence on a post that asks what your favourite pancake topping is, or re-watching one of his goal montages for the billionth time is what some might do. That gets tiring.

What about summerising a legendary career through one particular goal? In normal circumstances that could be deemed a tiresome cop out. But there is nothing nondescript about running through Barcelona’s Greatest Goal of All Time. Well, that’s at least what the polls say, and what more can we say about Messi’s goal against Gefate in 2007? Enough to fill an ode to the little magician, at least.

Whenever Messi pulls the proverbial rabbit out of the hat – which happens every week – people will always point to another moment of individual brilliance he’s done that surpasses it. Totally acceptable behaviour given that you could’ve started watching a highlights reel and January and would still probably be only half-way through it now in July.

All of those moments to cherish deserve their own pedestal, though. Don’t compare his free kick against Liverpool to his one against Atletico Madrid. Let it sing on its own. Let his goal against Getafe have its own video on YouTube. Don’t bung it in on a lengthy compilation reel.

When you’re by the touchline in your own half with ten of the opposing team in front, you shouldn’t be allowed to score. Not even ‘allowed’, you just shouldn’t score. Full stop.

At the tender age of 19, one Argentinian was already capable of the sublime. Not Diego Maradona, I hasten to add, although what followed was frighteningly reminiscent of what the great man did on that fateful day against England.

So, let’s begin.

Receiving the ball in the aforementioned spot, the onrushing forward makes the cardinal sin of overcommitting. He tries to close Messi down with a swinging right leg, but one deft touch leaves him dug into the turf. Then, the covering forward has his try, but he too is left in Messi’s dust, only with the unwelcome accolade of being nutmegged in the process.

FC Barcelona's Argentinian Leo Messi cel...FC Barcelona's Argentinian Leo Messi cel...
Messi’s goal against Getafe in 2007 was voted Barcelona’s greatest of all time | LLUIS GENE/Getty Images

Despite that, he’s still got the run-in on his foe. He’d need the length of the whole pitch, mind, as there is no catching Messi at half-sprint, let alone full pelt. Having wiggled his way in front of the back four, the wall of Getafe defenders are next up. To his credit, our previous nutmegged friend continues his tracking back, but, where Messi differs from the rest, he uses this to his advantage.

He wants you to commit. Your despairing slide tackle is to his gain, not vice versa. So when he takes to the floor, a shield between Messi and the left-sided central-half emerges. Perfect.

That weighted touch just as he lunges commits a further two defenders, with the covering opponent valiantly trying his best to get the slide tackle in. Again, exactly what Messi wants. Two sprawling legs coming from opposing angles and a third well-positioned centre-half stand between him and a run at goal. Ronaldinho revolutionised the flip-flip skill, but Messi is capable of doing similar with such pace – and at any angle – that he still has time for his foot to leave the ball before the next touch.

It’s poetry in motion. Blink and you’ll miss it. Two measured touches weave him in between the despairing dives of the back line.

FC Barcelona's Argentine Leo Messi (C) v...FC Barcelona's Argentine Leo Messi (C) v...
Put three men on him, slide tackle all the you want.. don’t bother, it’s hopeless | LLUIS GENE/Getty Images

The goalkeeper is up next, rushing off his line but muddled up in his head about to how to react; a legitimately acceptable frame of mind after he’d just seen his teammates sat down by a 19-year-old wizard. A drop of the shoulder and shift onto his right foot leaves poor Luis Garcia joining them in the doldrums.

There is one final gallant attempt to prevent the inevitable from the final of Getafe player on the firing line, but flinging his body in front of goal was an act of hopelessness more than determination. Of course, Messi dinked it over him.

To award Xavi Hernandez with the assist for the goal feels like a crime. We all love the man to bits, but his contribution was no different to the supporters in the stands aghast with amazement.

What else is there left to be said that hasn’t already been said? Lionel Messi is Lionel Messi, and Lionel Messi will always be Lionel Messi.

Nobody else will ever – at least in our lifetimes – come close. That may come across as a rather depressing assertion. But it’s true. Enjoy it while it lasts. Be grateful you were here to witness him.

For more from Ross Kennerley, follow him on Twitter!

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90min Editors Pick Their 2020 Ballon d’Or Rankings

Lewandowski was the heavy favourite for the Ballon d'Or.
Lewandowski was the heavy favourite for the Ballon d’Or. | TF-Images/Getty Images

France Football have announced that the Ballon d’Or will not be awarded this year, and we at 90min think that is a damn shame.

Obviously the pandemic’s disruption of the football calendar is a fairly fair reason as to why it’s not being handed out, but still, we feel sorry for big Robert Lewandowski. The guy who has scored (roughly) a trillion goals in 2020. He deserves a ball-shaped prize for that.

So, as some sort of consolation prize for Lewa, 90min‘s editorial team have decided to do our own 2020 Ballon d’Or rankings – and inevitably pick the Bayern Munich forward as the winner of our…Ballon papier-mâché award.

Robert LewandowskiRobert Lewandowski
Robert Lewandowski has been outstanding this year | Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

1. Robert Lewandowski

2. Thomas Muller

3. Karim Benzema

4. Kevin De Bruyne

5. Lionel Messi

A Bayern top two for me this year for a pretty simple reason: Bayern Munich are the best team in the world in 202,0 and Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller have been their best performers.

In 2020 alone, Lewandowski has scored (exactly) 21 goals and assisted a further four, while Muller has only gone and broken the Bundesliga record for most assists in a single season.

That’s pretty, pretty good.

Elsewhere in my top five we have Karim Benzema, who seemed hell-bent on breaking the internet with backheels in 2020, Kevin De Bruyne, who single-handedly made Man City relatively competent, and Lionel Messi who is, you know, Lionel Messi.

Josip IlicicJosip Ilicic
Josip Ilicic has been outstanding for Atalanta. | UEFA – Handout/Getty Images

1. Robert Lewandowski

2. Lionel Messi

3. Kevin De Bruyne

4. Karim Benzema

5. Josip Ilicic

It feels weird not to put Messi top in a season where’s he’s reached a new statistical madness (25 goals and 21 assists in the league!) but Robert Lewandowski has been…yeesh.

He scored more than 50 goals! He was better than a goal a game in every competition! He might very well add the Champions League to his 2020!

Yeah, Robert Lewandowski has been the best player in the world this year. KdB’s been excellent, Benzema’s finally been the man, and Ilicic…well, someone from Atalanta needed to get in and he’s the most fun.

Kevin De BruyneKevin De Bruyne
De Bruyne has been exceptional this season despite Man City’s woes | Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images

1. Robert Lewandowski

2. Sergio Ramos

3. Lionel Messi

4. Kevin De Bruyne

5. Virgil van Dijk

It’s got to be big Robert Lewandowski for top spot, right?

He was unmatched before and after lockdown, scoring more than a goal a game in the Bundesliga for an electric Bayern Munich side.

Sergio Ramos deserves enormous recognition for his role in Real Madrid’s La Liga title win, so while Lionel Messi was his usual brilliant self, his performances in a dodgy Barcelona team are only good enough for third place.

Kevin De Bruyne continues to improve with every passing season and his fourth spot is fully justified, and Liverpool need some representation after a brilliant Premier League campaign, so Virgil van Dijk makes up the top five.

BOSH!

Jordan HendersonJordan Henderson
Henderson captained Liverpool to their first league title in 30 years. | Pool/Getty Images

1. Robert Lewandowski

2. Sergio Ramos

3. Karim Benzema

4. Kevin De Bruyne

5. Jordan Henderson

When you score 51 goals in 43 games, you’ve basically completed football. The same can be said for those who have won eight Bundesliga titles – including six in a row – and five kicker Torjägerkanone (that’s Golden Boot awards win for me and you). Only one man has done that and that’s my mate Robert Lewandowski. What a guy.

Sergio Ramos has scored more La Liga goals in a single season (11) than he’s ever done before in his career, helping Real Madrid claim a 34th league title. He also has a wonderful beard, is rocking glowing 12-pack abs and continues to be a genius sh*thouse. Need I say more?

Few players who have played alongside Cristiano Ronaldo have got the credit they deserve. One of those who’s been sawn off is Gareth Bale, and another is Karim Benzema – who for the best part of decade has been bloody brilliant for Real Madrid. All it needed for the Frenchman to take centre stage was Zinedine Zidane at the helm and CR7 to do one for him to become the third best player in the world.

Manchester City haven’t been as great as they normally are, but that sentence doesn’t apply to a magnificent ginger haired Belgian known as Kevin De Bruyne. Yep, KDB has actually improved this season – which you’d have thought is borderline impossible given his immense technical ability.

And rounding off my top five is a certain Liverpool captain.

Just incase you’ve been living under a rock, Liverpool have won a first top-flight title in 30 years and first ever Premier League crown. It’s not been all about Mo Salah, Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino this year, and nor has it been all about Virgil van Dijk. Instead, it’s been all about the consistent displays of captain fantastic Jordan Henderson. And boy, has he been fantastic.

Lionel MessiLionel Messi
Messi’s worst season in a decade and he was still better than pretty much everyone else | Alex Caparros/Getty Images

1. Robert Lewandowski

2. Lionel Messi

3. Kevin De Bruyne

4. Karim Benzema

5. Casemiro

As much as I’d like to choose someone else for variety, Lewandowski is the obvious choice whichever way you swing it. Meanwhile, Messi’s ‘bad’ year has still yielded 15 goals and 14 assists, in a proper shambles of a team too.

Because it’s hard to isolate just one Liverpool player – and most did their best work pre-lockdown anyway – De Bruyne is probably the Premier League’s leading candidate so far.

Benzema has obviously been superb for Real Madrid, but often overlooked is the role of Casemiro, who (forget Ramos) is this team’s key cog.

Using the following scoring system:

1st = 5 points.

2nd = 4 points.

3rd = 3 points.

2nd = 2 points.

5th = 1 point.

Here they, are the definitive, the correct, the undisputed 2019 Ballon d’Or rankings, as voted for by the 90min editorial team:

1. Robert Lewandowski (25 pts)

2. Karim Benzema (13 pts)

3. Kevin De Bruyne (12 pts)

4. Lionel Messi (12 pts)

5. Sergio Ramos (8 pts)

Let’