Haaland getting even better – Barcelona next?

Speculation around Erling Haaland’s future is intensifying with Barcelona now said to be front-runners for his signature but how has the Borussia Dortmund striker been performing this season? And how could Barcelona afford him?

Haaland has been linked with a host of top European clubs in recent years, including Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United, but reports in Spain say his agent, Mino Raiola, has informed Barcelona president Joan Laporta of the 21-year-old’s desire to make the Catalan giants his next club.

Dortmund maintain he is going nowhere in January but even he does stay beyond the end of the month, Raiola has already said publicly there is a “big chance” he will move in the summer, when a £64m release clause in his contract reportedly comes into effect.

With 76 goals in 74 appearances for Dortmund since his move from Red Bull Salzburg in December 2019, it’s little wonder Haaland is in demand. Here, we look at how he’s fared this season – and examine how cash-strapped Barcelona could sign him.

Goals flowing despite interruptions

Dortmund's Erling Haaland celebrates his second goal during the German Bundesliga soccer match between Borussia Dortmund and Greuther Furth
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Haaland celebrates a recent goal against Greuther Furth

Haaland has had to contend with injuries this season. A muscular problem caused him to miss three games at the end of September and he was ruled out for a longer period between October and November due to a hip flexor issue.

That hip injury was expected to keep him sidelined for December, too, but instead he returned to action ahead of schedule.

Typically, he marked his first appearance in two months with a goal only seven minutes after his introduction from the bench, helping Borussia Dortmund beat Wolfsburg 3-1 on November 27.

That strike put him into double figures in the Bundesliga this season and there have been five more in five games since, taking his overall goal tally to 19 in just 15 appearances for Dortmund so far.

Haaland is Dortmund’s top scorer as a result, and despite missing a large chunk of the campaign through injury, only Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowksi (19) and Bayer Leverkusen’s Patrik Schick (16) have scored more goals in the Bundesliga this season.

The Norway striker may well overtake that pair if he remains injury-free and continues scoring with the same frequency. Indeed, the 21-year-old is averaging a goal every 69 minutes in the Bundesliga, meaning his strike rate is the best it has been since his arrival at Dortmund from Red Bull Salzburg two seasons ago.

Disappointingly for Dortmund, they lag behind Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich despite Haaland’s efforts. Marco Rose’s side sit nine points behind their rivals in second place. They would be nine points worse off, though, without Haaland’s goals.

They missed him badly during the Champions League group stage. Haaland was only able to start their first two games, meaning he was unavailable for crucial meetings with Ajax and Sporting Lisbon as Dortmund slumped to a third-placed finish in Group C, causing them to drop into the Europa League.

Haaland must now wait for another crack at the Champions League – be that at Dortmund or somewhere else.

Stats trending upwards

Haaland has scored 13 goals in only 10 Bundesliga appearances this season
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Haaland has scored 13 goals in only 10 Bundesliga appearances this season

The records continue to tumble for Haaland, who, at 21 years and six days old, became the youngest player in Bundesliga history to reach 50 goals in the competition in November. He also reached the landmark in the fewest appearances – only 50.

What’s most impressive, though, is that Haaland, a frightening talent ever since he burst onto the scene at Red Bull Salzburg as a teenager, just keeps getting better.

“He’s much improved compared to last season,” said Dortmund boss Rose earlier this month. “He has better timing, finds good positions, and he’s making the right decisions.”

The improved movement and decision-making can be seen in his increased goal output but it’s the positioning Rose mentioned that best explains how he has reached another level this season.

Put simply, Haaland is spending more time in areas of the pitch in which he can hurt opponents. He is of course capable of inflicting damage from just about anywhere thanks to his extraordinary speed and strength, but it is in the opposition penalty box that he is most deadly.

This season, one of the most notable changes in his game is that he is getting considerably more touches there. His average of 8.7 touches in the opposition box per 90 minutes is up from 7.1 per 90 minutes last year and 5.6 per 90 minutes in 2019/20.

His shot volume has gone in the same direction. This season in the Bundesliga, he is averaging 4.5 efforts on goal per 90 minutes, up from 3.5 per 90 minutes last season. His average of 2.2 shots on target per 90 minutes also represents a significant increase.

Haaland is even providing more ammunition for his team-mates. As well as scoring more himself, the stats show he is creating more chances than at any point in his Dortmund career. Significantly, his numbers for expected assists show the chances are of a higher quality too.

All the numbers point to a player finding new ways to improve – and that should be a frightening prospect for those clubs who end up missing out on his signature.

How could Barcelona afford him?

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Spanish football journalist Alvaro Montero provides an update on Barca’s interest in Erling Haaland and explains how the club could afford such a player

Barcelona’s interest in Haaland was confirmed to Sky Sports News this week by Spanish football journalist Alvaro Montero, who cited reports from Spain claiming Raiola and Laporta discussed the transfer during a meeting at the Golden Boy gala in Torino, Italy, on December 13.

“In that moment, there was, not an agreement, but Raiola showed Laporta the decision of Haaland to play in FC Barcelona, if FC Barcelona and Laporte has their economic situation resolved and have enough money to pay the player,” Montero said.

Barcelona, however, are over 1.3 billion euros in debt and lost close to 500 million euros last year alone, casting serious doubt on how they could possibly finance the deal – be it this month or in the summer.

They are said to have taken out a substantial loan from Goldman Sachs, allowing them to buy Ferran Torres from Manchester City earlier this month. But staying within the parameters of Financial Fair Play remains problematic.

“It’s very difficult,” added Montero. “They registered Dani Alves after Kun Aguero left but now they’ve got problems to register Ferran Torres because of Financial Fair Play. So, right now, with Erling Haaland, it seems almost impossible.

“Some players must leave. They are thinking about (Philippe) Coutinho [who has subsequently joined Aston Villa on loan], about (Samuel) Umtiti. And others such as Ousmane Dembele could even do a kind of contract renovation which does not count towards this round of Financial Fair Play.

“It’s a difficult economical exercise to understand but if players like Coutinho and Umtiti leave and Dembele renovates, as Xavi has asked publicly, maybe they could afford this, but it’s extremely difficult at the moment with the economical difficulties Barcelona has.”

European football journalist Andy Brassell, meanwhile, points out Barcelona must also factor wages and agent commission into the finances for any deal for Haaland and wonders if a move to Real Madrid may make more sense for the player if he wants immediate success.

“Barcelona will be able to get the money to pay the transfer fee, if we believe that there’s a release clause of around 75 million euros for him to go next summer,” he told Sky Sports News.

“Raiola has been talking to Barcelona – as he has been to a number of clubs. He wants to give his client the best choice possible.

“But I think there are two big problems with this. Firstly, while they may be able to pay the transfer fee, what about the enormous wages that Haaland will be looking for and the huge commission that Mino Raiola will be looking for?

“That’s something that they will also have to meet, which makes it a very expensive deal.

“I think the other thing is the fact that you’ve seen Haaland help Dortmund win the German Cup last season, but when they fall short, he looks so frustrated and finds it hard to keep it in.

“Barcelona, despite all the great young players they’ve got, are not winning everything in the near future and I think Real Madrid seems a look more logical move for him if he wants to win now.”

What’s been said about Haaland this season?

Emre Can has talked up Erling Haaland's Dortmund influence
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Emre Can has talked up Haaland’s Dortmund influence

Borussia Dortmund manager Marco Rose: “Almost every day he is confronted with some outrageous speculation, and the way Erling handles it as a young player is extraordinary, I think. All of us who work with him are used to it by now.

“He’s much improved compared to last season. He has better timing, finds good positions, and he’s making the right decisions.”

Dortmund midfielder Emre Can: “Everybody knows about Erl’s quality. He helps us as a team a lot. I think the team has more confidence when he’s on the pitch.”

Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham: “I stand here every week and tell you how great he is. The only thing more I can say is that the player you see isn’t a fluke. He doesn’t just turn up after a week on the sun bed, and go out and play. He works his socks off every day to be a better striker. And he’s an even better guy than he is a striker.”

Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski: “He’s a great player. He has great potential, but he’s still very young.

“In the future, he has the chance to become the best forward in the world, for sure.

“It’s great to have him in the Bundesliga, to have a young player here to compare [myself] to. I see his face; he has the desire to score goals.

“He is the player who can be the best. It’s not always easy when things are going well. But he has scored a lot of goals already and he’s very young.”

Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk: “Haaland is a special striker, he’s strong, he’s quick. He’s got all the attributes to make a defender’s life very, very difficult.

“The first time was when he was at Salzburg he scored at Anfield. He was very quick, direct. A bit like how Jamie Vardy plays, but Haaland is a bit stronger than Vardy.”

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Coutinho joins Villa on loan until end of season

Philippe Coutinho has joined Aston Villa on loan from Barcelona until the end of the season.

The agreement, which is subject to the player completing a medical and receiving a work permit, also includes an option to buy and Coutinho will travel to Birmingham in the next 48 hours.

Villa are paying less than 50 per cent of Coutinho’s weekly wage, plus bonuses, Sky Sports News has been told, and he even agreed to a pay cut, with other clubs offering deals that would have seen him earn 100 per cent of his Barca wage.

Coutinho wanted to return to England and play regular football and sees Villa as an ambitious club that are building something special for the future.

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Philippe Coutinho’s best Premier League moments

The Brazil midfielder knows manager Steven Gerrard well having spent two-and-a-half years with him at Liverpool, and is said to already know a lot about Villa and their squad.

Villa have an option to buy Coutinho for £33m in the summer.

One source told Sky Sports News there was also a chance Coutinho could have returned to Liverpool this month and that he would have been open to the move.

However, it is understood Liverpool were not pursuing a move for the 29-year-old during the January transfer window.

Coutinho was signed by Barcelona from Liverpool for a club-record £146m in January 2018, but he has struggled to hold down a first-team place at the Nou Camp and spent the 2019/20 season on loan at Bayern Munich.

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A rewind to 2017 when Philippe Coutinho named Steven Gerrard in his dream 5-a-side team and rated him as the best midfielder he has ever played with

In terms of outgoings, Villa striker Wesley has joined Brazilian side Internacional on loan for the rest of the season.

Gerrard: Coutinho a serial winner

Speaking on Thursday ahead of signing Coutinho, manager Steven Gerrard said:

“Sixty-three caps for Brazil, a serial winner, was incredible at Liverpool, so I can understand why he’s linked to a lot of football clubs,” said Gerrard.

“I can understand why a lot of supporters up and down the country are speaking about him. I don’t think you get a nickname as a magician if you’re not a special footballer, so he’s someone I have an incredible amount of respect for.

“But I don’t want to add to any speculation, because he belongs to Barcelona.”

Analysis: Coutinho could fill Grealish void

Jack Grealish once commented Philippe Coutinho was one of his favourite players to watch on YouTube. “He always has that one, you know, where he goes left and drops like a little shimmy, which is what I like doing myself.” Now the journey has come full circle.

While Grealish perfected his art enough to earn a £100m move to Manchester City, Coutinho returns to the Premier League to replace him at Aston Villa. If the Brazilian can repeat the form that took him from Liverpool to Barcelona it will be an ideal signing.

There are similarities between the two players. Grealish praised Coutinho’s ability to “go past players like they aren’t there” and that is what Villa so loved about their former captain. They have missed having that player who can make things happen this season.

Is the Coutinho idolised by Grealish still there? At 29, there is time to recapture his best form under old team-mate Steven Gerrard, but his career has drifted at Barcelona. If, like Grealish, Coutinho is inspired by being the main man at Villa Park, there is fun to be had.

Follow the January transfer window with Sky Sports

Who will be on the move in January?

The January transfer window opens on Saturday January 1, 2022 and closes at 11pm on Monday January 31.

Keep up-to-date with all the latest transfer news and rumours in our dedicated Transfer Centre blog on Sky Sports’ digital platforms. You can also catch up with the ins, outs and analysis on Sky Sports News.

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Coutinho to decide future on Friday; Gerrard reunion would be welcomed

Philippe Coutinho is set to make a decision over his future on Friday and would welcome a reunion with Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard.

Villa are understood to be one of two Premier League sides who are keen to sign Coutinho, who wants to return to England and play regular football.

Coutinho is understood to be more than willing to sign for Villa, who are 13th in the Premier League, as he sees them as an ambitious club that are building something special for the future.

The Brazilian midfielder knows Gerrard well having spent two-and-a-half years with him at Liverpool, and is said to already know a lot about Villa and their squad.

One source has told Sky Sports News there was also a chance Coutinho could return to Liverpool this month and that he would be happy to return to Anfield.

However, it is understood that Liverpool will not be pursuing a move for the 29-year-old during the January transfer window.

Coutinho was signed by Barcelona from Liverpool for a club-record £146m in January 2018, but he has struggled to hold down a first-team place at the Nou Camp and spent the 2019/20 season on loan at Bayern Munich.

There were up to six English clubs in the race to sign Coutinho earlier this week, but there are now only two serious contenders fighting it out for the midfielder.

Gerrard is a big admirer of Coutinho, but he refused to be drawn on the prospect of signing his former team-mate at Thursday’s news conference ahead of Monday’s FA Cup third-round tie at Manchester United.

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Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard remained tight-lipped on a potential move for his former Liverpool team-mate Philippe Coutinho

“Sixty-three caps for Brazil, a serial winner, was incredible at Liverpool, so I can understand why he’s linked to a lot of football clubs,” said Gerrard.

“I can understand why a lot of supporters up and down the country are speaking about him. I don’t think you get a nickname as a magician if you’re not a special footballer, so he’s someone I have an incredible amount of respect for.

“But I don’t want to add to any speculation, because he belongs to Barcelona.”

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With Philippe Coutinho being linked with a move back to the Premier League, we take a look back at some of his best Premier League goals in a Liverpool shirt

‘Coutinho a serial winner wherever he’s been’

Coutinho, who has scored 28 goals in 105 games for Barca, has struggled since making his dream move to Catalonia, but still managed to win four major trophies as a bit-part player.

Despite widespread belief that Coutinho has underperformed since moving to Spain, Gerrard has defended his former team-mate’s record at the Nou Camp and thinks he still has a lot to offer.

“He won two league titles and two Copa del Reys with Barcelona,” added Gerrard.

“I think if you go and have a look at his Wikipedia page I think you’ll see a serial winner wherever he’s been.

“I’ve got nothing but positive things to say about the player, he’s a friend of mine, so if I’m asked the questions I can speak for as long as you want.”

Coutinho also spent the 2019/20 campaign on loan at Bayern Munich and won the Champions League, the Bundesliga, and the German Cup under Hansi Flick.

‘Coutinho would be more than happy to play for Aston Villa’

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Kaveh Solhekol has revealed that a source has said that Philippe Coutinho is interested in playing for Aston Villa

Sky Sports News’ Kaveh Solhekol:

“Speaking to people on the player’s side of the deal, my feeling about this is that Philippe Coutinho would be interested in joining Aston Villa.

“He knows people at Aston Villa. He knows Steven Gerrard and Christian Purslow from his time at Liverpool. He feels Villa are an up-and-coming club. Gerrard, Purslow and the owners have big plans for the club.

“He also knows the king of quality in the Villa squad, players like Ollie Watkins, Emi Buendia and Emi Martinez, and he feels if he was playing at Villa regularly, he could help them get up the table and into Europe.

“So, I think that is definitely on the cards and as far as Aston Villa are concerned, of course, they are not giving anything away. They are not commenting at all because as far as they are concerned, he’s a Barcelona player.

“From the player’s perspective, I understand Coutinho would be more than happy to play for Aston Villa and Steven Gerrard.”

Follow the January transfer window with Sky Sports

Who will be on the move in January?

The January transfer window opens on Saturday January 1, 2022 and closes at 11pm on Monday January 31.

Keep up-to-date with all the latest transfer news and rumours in our dedicated Transfer Centre blog on Sky Sports’ digital platforms. You can also catch up with the ins, outs and analysis on Sky Sports News.

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Gerrard: Coutinho is a serial winner, a special player

Steven Gerrard says he can understand why so many clubs are after “special” Philippe Coutinho, but would not be drawn on Aston Villa’s interest.

Villa are one of six English clubs in the race to sign the Barcelona midfielder, with Coutinho keen to return to the Premier League and expected to make a decision on his future before this weekend.

Gerrard, who regards Coutinho as a friend after their time together at Liverpool, did not want to add to speculation, but was full of praise for the 29-year-old at Thursday’s news conference.

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With Philippe Coutinho being linked with a move back to the Premier League, we take a look back at some of his best Premier League goals in a Liverpool shirt

“Sixty-three caps for Brazil, a serial winner, was incredible at Liverpool, so I can understand why he’s linked to a lot of football clubs,” said Gerrard, ahead of Monday’s FA Cup third-round tie at Manchester United.

“I can understand why a lot of supporters up and down the country are speaking about him. I don’t think you get a nickname as a magician if you’re not a special footballer, so he’s someone I have an incredible amount of respect for.

“But I don’t want to add to any speculation, because he belongs to Barcelona.”

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The Transfer Show’s Kaveh Solhekol reports Philippe Coutinho wants to return to the Premier League


Live: SNF


Saturday 15th January 5:00pm

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The former Liverpool player wants to return to England and sign for an ambitious club where he can play regularly.

It is understood that neither Liverpool nor Tottenham are among the clubs chasing his signature.

Aston Villa have made a tentative enquiry to Barcelona, but the hierarchy are conscious of avoiding a bidding war with other clubs as the Brazilian’s wage demands could also be significant.

‘I’ve got nothing but positive things to say’

Coutinho, who has scored 28 goals in 105 games for Barca, has struggled since making his dream move in a club-record £146m transfer in January 2018, but still managed to win four major trophies in Catalonia.

Despite widespread belief that Coutinho has underperformed since moving to Spain, Gerrard has defended his former team-mate’s record at the Nou Camp and thinks he still has a lot to offer.

“He won two league titles and two Copa del Reys with Barcelona,” added Gerrard.

“I think if you go and have a look at his Wikipedia page I think you’ll see a serial winner wherever he’s been.

“I’ve got nothing but positive things to say about the player, he’s a friend of mine, so if I’m asked the questions I can speak for as long as you want.”

Coutinho also spent the 2019/20 campaign on loan at Bayern Munich and won the Champions League, the Bundesliga, and the German Cup under Hansi Flick.

‘Gerrard may get best out of Coutinho’

South American football expert Tim Vickery told Sky Sports News:

“I was speaking to Brazil’s coach about Coutinho and one thing he said was he’s painfully shy. It’s one of the reasons the Barcelona deal hasn’t worked out. He was never going to swagger into that dressing room. He needs an arm around him all the time. So, Gerrard knows what Coutinho can do and knows how to get the best out of him. The kind of treatment he needs.”

No club is in pole position to sign Coutinho

Philippe Coutinho's numbers have dwindled
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Philippe Coutinho’s numbers have dwindled

Sky Sports News’ Kaveh Solhekol on The Transfer Show:

“There are lots of clubs interested in signing Coutinho, including six Premier League clubs, as well as clubs abroad.

“But he wants to come back to England and to return to the Premier League.

“I’m told no club is in pole position at the moment to sign him.

“I don’t think he knows where he’s going, but he’s got lots of options and his representatives are speaking to different clubs.

“We’ve seen his move to Barcelona hasn’t worked out, it’s been very stop-start. He wants to go somewhere where he can settle and play regularly.”

Villa interested in Bologna’s Hickey

September 18, 2021, Milan, United Kingdom: Milan, Italy, 18th September 2021. Aaron Hickey of Bologna FC during the Serie A match at Giuseppe Meazza, Milan. Picture credit should read: Jonathan Moscrop / Sportimage(Credit Image: © Jonathan Moscrop/CSM via ZUMA Wire) (Cal Sport Media via AP Images)
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Steven Gerrard has admired Aaron Hickey since he was at Hearts

Aston Villa are interested in highly-rated Scottish defender Aaron Hickey, Sky Sports News has been told.

The 19-year-old left-back moved to Italian side Bologna in the summer of 2020, after breaking through at Hearts.

He has played 19 games in Serie A already this season, scoring four goals.

Gerrard was originally impressed by Hickey’s performances for Hearts against his Rangers team in Scotland, and is understood to believe he could adapt well to the Premier League.

Asked about the club’s hunt for a left-back on Thursday, Villa boss Gerrard said: “We’re analysing a few different positions, in our team and in our squad where we can look to strengthen.

“That is happening behind the scenes, there’s nothing to report in terms of individual names or areas of what’s going on.”

Villa are also exploring other possibilities to strengthen at left-back.

Follow the January transfer window with Sky Sports

Who will be on the move in January?

The January transfer window opened on Saturday January 1, 2022 and closes at 11pm on Monday January 31.

Keep up-to-date with all the latest transfer news and rumours in our dedicated Transfer Centre blog on Sky Sports’ digital platforms. You can also catch up with the ins, outs and analysis on Sky Sports News.

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Copa del Rey: Barcelona survive scare | Real revenge

Champions Barcelona survived an early scare as they fought back to secure a 2-1 win at third-tier side Linares Deportivo in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday that sent them into the round of 16.

Barca made the trip to Andalucia missing several players due to COVID-19 and injuries, but coach Xavi Hernandez still decided to rest some key names for the last-32 tie and they fell behind in the 19th minute to a Hugo Diaz header.

Xavi then brought on Frenkie de Jong, Gerard Pique and Ousmane Dembele in the second half, with the French winger equalising with a low long shot that ‘keeper Brimah Razak failed to stop.

A few minutes later, young academy striker Ferran Jutgla scored the winner with a cross-shot from the corner of the box after a counter-attack.

Dani Alves made his second Barcelona debut more than five years after he left the club to join Juventus in 2016
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Dani Alves made his second Barcelona debut more than five years after he left the club to join Juventus in 2016

“I am very happy to help the team, to do what the coach asks me to do,” Jutgla told reporters. “They came out very strong, perhaps a little stronger than us.”

Barca join Espanyol, Real Sociedad, Valencia, Real Betis, Rayo Vallecano, Mallorca and third-tier Atletico Baleares, who eliminated La Liga side Celta Vigo with a 2-1 win, as the first clubs to advance into the last 16.

Real Madrid face third-tier Alcoyano later on Wednesday and Atletico Madrid host Rayo Majadahonda on Thursday.

It was another poor display from Barcelona, who are fifth in the La Liga standings, 15 points behind leaders Real Madrid.

Linares were on top even after Barca made their substitutions after the break and twice hit the bar.

They also had a goal disallowed by the referee for a narrow offside that could not be checked because Linares’ small stadium could not support the installation of VAR.

The big news going into the game was Dani Alves’s first appearance following his return to the club after six years.

The 38-year-old right-back, who started the game as a winger, became on Wednesday the oldest player to feature for Barcelona in a competitive match, surpassing Jose Manuel Pinto by 54 days.

Madrid gain revenge over minnows Alcoyano

Isco with Real Madrid team-mates after scoring
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Isco with Real Madrid team-mates after scoring

Real Madrid needed a lot of effort and a little luck as they won 3-1 at Alcoyano in the last 32 of the Copa del Rey on Wednesday, with two late goals helping them gain revenge for their defeat to the third-tier side last year.

It looked like deja-vu as Real Madrid returned to El Collao Stadium 12 months after being humiliated 2-1 by the same team, who hail from a small town close to Alicante.

Just like last year, Eder Militao headed Real into the lead, but Dani Vega scored a magnificent equaliser, curling a left-footed strike into Andriy Lunins far top corner.

Real went ahead when Alcoyano’s Raul Gonzalez deflected a Marco Asensio shot into the net with his back, wrongfooting goalkeeper Jose Juan.

Two minutes later, substitute Isco took advantage of a mistake by two Alcoyano defenders and, after colliding with Jose Juan, the ball bounced off him and rolled into the goal.

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Coutinho set for PL return; Villa among six clubs interested

Philippe Coutinho is set to agree a move to a Premier League club by this weekend, with Aston Villa one of six English clubs in a race to sign the Barcelona midfielder.

The former Liverpool player wants to return to England and sign for an ambitious club where he can play regularly.

The 29-year-old, who is also attracting interest from teams abroad, will decide his next club before this weekend.

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With Philippe Coutinho being linked with a move back to the Premier League, we take a look back at some of his best Premier League goals in a Liverpool shirt

Aston Villa have made a tentative enquiry to Barcelona but Villa’s bosses are conscious of avoiding a bidding war with other clubs.

The Brazilian’s wage demands could also be significant, however Villa boss Steven Gerrard is a keen admirer of Coutinho, having played alongside him at Liverpool for two-and-a-half years.

 Steven Gerrard and Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool - Barclays Premier League - Manchester Utd vs Liverpool - Old Trafford Stadium - Manchester - England - 16th March 2014 - Pic Simon Bellis/Sportimage. (Cal Sport Media via AP Images)
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Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard played with Coutinho at Liverpool

Coutinho has made 16 appearances in all competitions for Barcelona this season and is under contract at the Nou Camp until June 2023.

The former Inter Milan player is the Spanish giants’ club-record signing after he joined from Liverpool for £146m in January 2018.

But Coutinho, who has scored 28 goals in 105 games for Barca, has struggled to make an impact for the La Liga side, where he has won four major trophies.

He spent the 2019/20 campaign on loan at Bayern and won the Champions League, the Bundesliga, and the German Cup under Hansi Flick.

No club is in pole position to sign Coutinho

Sky Sports News’ Kaveh Solhekol on The Transfer Show:

“There are lots of clubs interested in signing Coutinho, including six Premier League clubs, as well as clubs abroad.

“But he wants to come back to England and to return to the Premier League.

“I’m told no club is in pole position at the moment to sign him.

“I don’t think he knows where he’s going, but he’s got lots of options and his representatives are speaking to different clubs.

“We’ve seen his move to Barcelona hasn’t worked out, it’s been very stop-start. He wants to go somewhere where he can settle and play regularly.”

Villa interested in Bologna’s Hickey

September 18, 2021, Milan, United Kingdom: Milan, Italy, 18th September 2021. Aaron Hickey of Bologna FC during the Serie A match at Giuseppe Meazza, Milan. Picture credit should read: Jonathan Moscrop / Sportimage(Credit Image: © Jonathan Moscrop/CSM via ZUMA Wire) (Cal Sport Media via AP Images)
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Steven Gerrard has admired Aaron Hickey since he was at Hearts

Aston Villa are interested in highly-rated Scottish defender Aaron Hickey, Sky Sports News has been told.

The 19-year-old left-back moved to Italian side Bologna in the summer of 2020, after breaking through at Hearts.

He has played 19 games in Serie A already this season, scoring four goals.

Steven Gerrard was originally impressed by Hickey’s performances for Hearts against his Rangers team in Scotland, and believes he could adapt well to the Premier League.

Villa are also exploring other possibilities to strengthen at left-back.

Follow the January transfer window with Sky Sports

Who will be on the move in January?

The January transfer window opens on Saturday January 1, 2022 and closes at 11pm on Monday January 31.

Keep up-to-date with all the latest transfer news and rumours in our dedicated Transfer Centre blog on Sky Sports’ digital platforms. You can also catch up with the ins, outs and analysis on Sky Sports News.

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Getafe secure shock win over Real Madrid

An early goal from Turkish striker Enes Unal shocked La Liga leaders Real Madrid as they lost 1-0 at Getafe on Sunday and ended an unbeaten run that had lasted 15 matches in all competitions.

With 46 points from 20 games, Real Madrid are still top but are not as comfortable as before. Sevilla are second with 38 points and two games in hand, and will visit second-from-bottom Cadiz on Monday.

Getafe, led by former Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores, extended their unbeaten streak in La Liga to six matches and are 16th in the standings, three points above the relegation zone. It was their first win over Real in a decade.

Unal scored with a low, powerful strike in the ninth minute after pressuring Real defender Eder Militao into giving up the ball inside the box.

Enes Unal celebrates his winning strike for Getafe
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Enes Unal celebrates his winning strike for Getafe

Barcelona moved up two spots to fifth following a 1-0 victory at Mallorca.

Having sent efforts against a post and then the crossbar in quick succession around the half-hour mark, Luuk De Jong subsequently headed in what proved the winner with a minute of normal time to go before the break.

Barca – missing a host of players due to injury and coronavirus – sealed the three points after Marc-Andre Ter Stegen made a late save to deny Jaume Costa.

Xavi’s side are a point behind Atletico Madrid, who earlier rose to fourth with a 2-0 home win over Rayo Vallecano.

Angel Correa notched a brace at the Wanda Metropolitano, scoring in the 28th and 53rd minutes, as Atletico ended their four-match losing streak and pushed Rayo – now sixth – out of the Champions League places.

A point separates Diego Simeone’s team and third-placed Real Betis, who are five behind Sevilla.

Los Verdiblancos lost 2-0 at home to Celta Vigo. There was a double for Iago Aspas in that match to take him to 10 goals for the season, scoring a penalty in the 36th minute and adding another finish in first-half stoppage time.

Real Sociedad, down to seventh, were held to a 1-1 draw at third-bottom Alaves after Adnan Januzaj’s early opener for the away side was cancelled out by Joselu’s spot-kick just before the hour.

Seventeenth-placed Elche, who have the same amount of points as Alaves, hung on to draw 0-0 at home with Granada after having Diego Gonzalez sent off two minutes into the second half.

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Barcelona sign Ferran Torres from Man City

Barcelona have completed the signing of Ferran Torres from Manchester City.

The Spain forward has joined Barca on a five-year deal until 2027 and the club have set his buyout clause at €1billion (£841,735,504.40m).

Barca will pay an initial £46.3m (€55m) plus a further £8.4m (€10m) in add-ons for the forward. Some £5.9m (€7m) of those add-ons are said to be more or less guaranteed.

The Spanish club agreed a deal to sign Torres from City in the week leading up to Christmas.

The 21-year-old is regarded by Barcelona as one of Spain’s most promising talents. They are able to spend in January after recently receiving sizeable investment via a bank loan.

The club have said Torres will be officially unveiled at the Nou Camp and shall attend his first training session and press conference on January 3.

Torres joined City for an initial fee of £20.8m plus bonuses on a five-year deal in August 2020 but has played only four times in the Premier League this season, scoring twice, and once more in the Champions League.

Ferran Torres celebrates during Spain's win over Italy
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Ferran Torres has scored 12 goals in 22 caps for the Spanish national team

Torres departs the Etihad Stadium having scored 16 goals in 43 appearances for City in all competitions. He also helped Pep Guardiola’s team to the Premier League and Carabao Cup last season.

He has been sidelined since October with a foot injury suffered on international duty with Spain.

City’s director of football Txiki Begiristain said: “Ferran should be proud of what he has achieved here at Manchester City.

“Last season was his first time in a new country, but he adapted well. He always gave 100 per cent, worked hard for the team and scored goals which helped us win trophies.

“Injury unfortunately prevented him from playing more games this season, but Ferran is a player we have all enjoyed working with and we wish him all the best at Barcelona and for the rest of his career.”

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Torres’ arrival in Catalonia comes with former City team-mate Sergio Aguero having announced his retirement earlier in December after being diagnosed with a heart condition just months following his move to Barca.

Prior to his move to City, Torres attracted interest from Barca, Real Madrid and some of Europe’s top clubs as a result of his exploits at Valencia.

A graduate of Valencia’s academy, he made his first-team debut in 2017 and went on to score nine times in 97 matches and helped them to the Copa del Rey in the 2018/19 season.

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Barca agree £55m deal to sign Man City’s Torres

???????Barcelona have agreed a deal that could total £55m with Manchester City to sign Ferran Torres.

The Spanish side will pay an initial £46.7m (€55m) plus a further £8.5m (€10m) in add-ons. Some £5.9m (€7m) of those add-ons are said to be more or less guaranteed.

It means City will have made at least £27m (€32m) on a player they paid Valencia around £20m (€23m) for in 2020.

They have not paid any of the agreed add-ons to Valencia due to the limited time he has spent at the Etihad.

Barcelona regard Torres as one of Spain’s rising talents and have money to spend in January after recently receiving sizeable investment via a bank loan.

Their relationship with City is also strong; City officials including Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano used to work for Barca president Joan Laporta during his previous reign at the club.

Ferran Torres goal celeb Manchester vs Arsenal Premier League
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Torres, 21, has played only four times in the Premier League this season

Barca have also shown interest in signing Raheem Sterling but City want to keep him and he has recently returned to some of his best form in a City shirt.

Torres, 21, has played only four times in the Premier League this season, scoring twice, and once more in the Champions League.

He has been sidelined since October with a foot injury suffered on international duty with Spain.

‘Barca have good agreement with City’

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Spanish football expert Alvaro Montero provides the latest on Barcelona’s pursuit of Manchester City forward Ferran Torres after a deal was agreed

Spanish football expert Alvaro Montero says Barcelona are able to finance the deal, and stay the right side of Financial Fair Play, by virtue of agreeing a flexible payment structure with Manchester City.

“First of all, there is a bank credit [loan] for Barcelona signed with Goldman Sachs, and, in the last few weeks, they have leaked to the press they have got some savings. That means a little bit of cash, but not enough to pay that amount of money,” Montero told Sky Sports News.

“They have a good agreement with Manchester City, that means good payment conditions. Barcelona will pay for this transfer not in one or two years, but maybe in three, in four, in five years.

“To fulfil this move, Barcelona believe one or two players may leave.”

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Euro round-up: Juve win, Barcelona held

Juventus ended the year on a positive note by beating relegation-threatened Cagliari 2-0 on Tuesday to close the gap to the top four in Serie A.

Moise Kean and Federico Bernardeschi scored as Juventus moved to within four points of Atalanta, who were surprisingly held to a 0-0 draw at struggling Genoa.

Atalanta were in fourth place and the final Champions League spot. Juventus had struggled at the start of the season but things are starting to click under returning coach Massimiliano Allegri and they came into the match having won five of their past six matches, drawing the other.

They almost took an early lead but Kean headed Juan Cuadrado’s cross off the far post.

He did better five minutes from half-time when he headed in Bernardeschi’s cross following a superb run from the winger.

Bernardeschi got on the scoresheet himself seven minutes from time when he turned in a pass from Dejan Kulusevski, for his first goal since July 2020.

Atalanta tried everything but could not find a way past a resilient Genoa team and missed the chance to move into second place in Serie A.

It was one-way traffic but when Atalanta did find a way through the defence they were denied by good saves from Genoa goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu.

Atalanta could have moved a point above Napoli and AC Milan before their games on Wednesday.

Genoa remained in the drop zone but inched to within two points of safety.

Salernitana’s match at Udinese was not officially postponed but could not take place because of a coronavirus outbreak at the visiting club.

Salernitana were blocked by local health authorities from traveling to Udine after at least two members of the team tested positive for COVID-19.

La Liga: Barcelona held by Sevilla

Barcelona failed to make up much ground on the top four in La Liga as they were held to a 1-1 draw at 10-man Sevilla.

Sevilla, second in La Liga behind Real Madrid, took the lead through Papu Gomez after 32 minutes following an Ivan Rakitic corner, but Barcelona levelled on the stroke of half-time thanks to a Ronald Araujo header from Ousmane Dembele’s corner.

Sevilla then had to see out the game from 64 minutes with 10 men after Jules Kounde saw red for violent conduct, after hurling the ball into the face of Jordi Alba.

But Barcelona could not capitalise, as they sit in seventh place, three points off the top four.

Elsewhere, there was a 5-2 win for Villarreal against Deportivo Alaves. Gerard Moreno and Boulaye Dia scored twice each for the home side, Yeremi Pino added another.

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