90min’s Definitive European Power Rankings: Week 22 – Oscars Special

It was quite a week in European football. Quite a week. 

– VAR VARd at an all-time rate.

– Maurizio Sarri did the final preparations for his grand Stamford Bridge escape act (lots of smoke etc).

– JUVENTUS DIED.

– Schalke did a reverse Ajax and then reversed that.

– Manchester City DIED and then dramatically came BACK TO LIFE.

– Tuesday became “Entertaining” scoreless draw day.

– Atletico, held up like Jimmy MacElroy in Blades of Glory (by the balls), ROSE AGAIN.

So, in honour of Oscars week, here are 90min’s DEFINITIVE European Power Rankings, powered by an assortment of quotes from the 2019 Best Picture nominees – except for Bohemian Rhapsody because, you know, it sucks.

15. Schalke (New Entry)

UEFA Champions League'Schalke 04 v Manchester City'

“I like being dead.” (Roma)

Taking up the Ajax honourable losers spot, it’s Schalke. To be fair, they weren’t nearly as impressive or deserving as the Dutch side, but at least they tried, and were destined for a historic result before…well, they weren’t.

It’s no secret that the Gelsenkirchen side are enduring their worst Bundesliga season in the last 20 years, but Wednesday night felt like a massive opportunity to temporarily rid themselves of these diamonds. Unfortunately, and in a cruel twist of fate, they were haunted by former youth star Leroy Sane, who delivered the penultimate nail in the coffin. 

Clearly, they like it that way. 

14. Ajax (Up 1)

Dutch Eredivisie'Ajax v NAC Breda'

“‘Must the duck be here?’

‘Fastest duck in the city. Horatio is a prize worth stealing, he does not leave my side.'” (The Favourite) 

Ajax backed up their noble showing against Real Madrid with a 5-1 romping of NAC Breda in the Eridivisie. And, though he was not on the scoresheet, Frenkie de Jong again showed his quality after sparring admirably with Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric.

Though his departure was almost inevitable, they might have heeded those words from Godolphin for at least a little longer. To be fair, though, Southampton will be feeling the same thing in regards to Dusan Tadic – because he did get on the scoresheet, twice.

13. AC Milan (Down 2)

Krzysztof Piatek

“So we gonna do this thing, or what? I mean, is this happening?” (Vice)

After beating European Power Rankings favourites Atalanta 3-1 at the Atleti Azzurri d’Italia, Milan cemented their fourth-placed position in Serie A, despite having just have the home side’s number of shots. 

They are now four points clear of Gian Piero Gasperini’s side, who are sixth, and one ahead of Roma. So, is it happening? Are the Rossoneri finally making their long-awaited return to the Champions League? With Krzysztof Piatek banging them in like this, why not?

12. Lyon (Re-Entry)

FBL-EUR-C1-LYON-BARCELONA

 “‘Hey!’

‘What?’ 

‘I just wanted to take another look at you.’” (A Star is Born)

Because their league is largely irrelevant, and they haven’t been making too many headlines in Ligue 1 anyway, little has been said of plucky Lyon. 

Yet, here they are again, frustrating high calibre opposition in Europe once again. I didn’t have much else to say, except for *extreme Bradley Cooper doing Jackson Maine doing Sam Elliot voice* “I just wanted to take another look at you.”

11. Real Madrid (Down 4)

Alvaro Odriozola,Dani Ceballos,Guillermo Cuadra Fernandez,Marco Asensio

“Some wounds do not close; I have many such.” (The Favourite)

It seems that, despite allusions of recovery, Real Madrid remain a flawed side. One of their biggest problems, as Sunday’s 2-1 loss to Girona illustrated, is the sharp decline of Sergio Ramos.

The Spaniard was sent off for two yellow cards at the Santiago Bernabeu, but he was also bad, and has been for a lot of this campaign. Will his wounds ever repair? 

10. Juventus (Down 8)

Cristiano Ronaldo

 “‘Did he freeze?’

‘Like an antelope in the headlights.’” (Black Panther)

That’s right, when it really came down to it in the only competition they really care about this season, Juventus froze. Be it like an Old Lady or an antelope, they definitely froze. 

And, despite a statistically impressive enough season in Turin, Cristiano Ronaldo, the man they paid £105m with the explicit purpose of winning this competition, was fairly anonymous in Europe again. No, they’re not the tenth best team in Europe, but this was their everything, and they’ve as good as blown it.

9. Borussia Dortmund (Down 1)

Abdou Diallo,Jakob Bruun Larsen,Paco Alcacer

“What on God’s green earth are you doing?” (Green Book) 

No, noo, noooo, noooooooooo. Stop it! Borussia Dortmund – what are you doing? How can you bottle this now. The long-reigning kings of 90min’s DEFINITIVE Power Rankings are plummeting, and fast. 

Following up the embarrassing (especially for those who’d backed you for so long, FFS!) loss to Tottenham, the BVB went and did their best old Tottenham impression against lowly Nurnberg on Monday night, drawing 0-0. Snap out of it, lads, we’ve put too much on the line here for you to blow this now. 

8. Manchester United (Up 1)

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

“With the right white man, we can do anything.” (BlackKlansman)

After five and a half years searching for the right man to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United have only gone and done it. And, well, yes he’s white…because he’s a manager in the Premier League and they’re pretty much all old and white. 

But, at least Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, AKA the Baby-Faced Assassin, at 45, isn’t as old as most of his contemporaries! That’s a start, I guess, sort of. 

7. Bayern Munich (Up 3)

Robert Lewandowski

“I never yielded! And as you can see, I am not dead!” (Black Panther)

It’s official. Bayern Munich are alive and kicking once again. 

They are now just three points behind former Kings of Europe (at least in these parts) Borussia Dortmund, have taken a slight (I said slight, Liverpool fans) advantage into their last 16 tie with the Reds. 

Sure, a goalless draw may not have been the most exciting way of showing it, but they’re not dead yet, baby.

6. Barcelona (Down 2)

Olympique Lyonnais v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: First Leg

“The world’s full of lonely people afraid to make the first move.” (Green Book) 

After not watching a second of Barca’s clash with Lyon – because, c’mon, who’s enough of a football hipster to forgo Bayern-Liverpool for THAT? – my two takeways are as follows:

A) THAT IS A DISGUSTING KIT GET IT OFF MY SCREEN, WHY DOES IT EXIST?

B) La Blaugrana probably should’ve done better, but they’re also not as lonely as Lyon so they’ll be sure to make the first move at the Nou Camp, or something. 

5. Liverpool (Up 1)

Naby Keita

“Hello, my fellow Americans. They say we may have lost the battle but we didn’t lose the war.” (BlackKklansman) 

There we go, Liverpool fans. No mockery here. Just some nice words of encouragement. I mean, sure, you could construe that ‘Americans’ label as some kind of claim that your club is just an American hedge fund in disguise, but why go looking for these things? 

Just enjoy your generous bumping up the rankings. 

4. Tottenham Hotspur (Down 1)

Fernando Llorente

“I’m off the deep end. Watch as I dive in. I never the meet the ground. Crash through the surface, where they can’t hurt us. We’re far from the shallow now.” (A Star is Born) 

Tottenham haven’t played since their earth-shattering thumping of Borussia Dortmund this week, but it’s only lost them one place in these here rankings. 

I’ve even seen some Spurs fans, who shall remain nameless *cough* stating their belief that the club can actually win the whole darn thing this year (that thing being the Champions League!!!). They’re off the deep end, now. 

3. Paris Saint-Germain (Up 1)

Kylian Mbappe

“F*ck Kissinger, he’s overrated anyway!” (Vice)

This joke only works if you can find the link between Henry Kissinger and Neymar Jr.

No? Me neither, so just imagine it’s there. 

After dismantling Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s rampant Red Devils, PSG beat St Etienne 1-0 before dumping Montpellier 5-1. One guess as to who the only player to score in both was. 

Hint – he’s pointing at him. 

2. Atletico Madrid (Up 1)

Diego Godin

“I’ve waited my whole life for this. The world’s going to start over. I’MA BURN IT ALL!” (Black Panther) 

THIS IS ATLETICO MADRID’S TIME.

I’m sure of it. They’ve waited at least my whole life for this, and I really think it’s their year. True, it was less Killmonger and more (as alluded to) Will Ferrell in Blades of Glory, but the quote stands. 

1. Manchester City (-)

Raheem Sterling

“It’s a Bugatti Spaceship.” (Black Panther)

I’ve officially run out of superlatives to describe Manchester City, and Bugatti Spaceship might be a nice new entry into the lexicon.

It’s not that they were even that good against Schalke – they needed some sloppy, sloppy defending and some sloppy, sloppy VAR to kick them into action – but once again they got a result. The Germans were shouldn’t have been a massive test, but they were, and City passed with flying colours. 

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Former Real Madrid President Reveals Reasons Behind Cristiano Ronaldo’s Unhappy Departure

Former Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon has cited his former club’s pursuit of Neymar, as well as Cristiano Ronaldo’s wage demands, as the key reason for the five-time Ballon d’Or star leaving the Spanish capital last summer.

Ronaldo made the shock move to Juventus after his Portugal side were knocked out of the World Cup, having accrued a stunning fifth Champions League crown with Los Blancos at the end of the campaign. It ended a nine-year stay at the Bernabeu, in which time he amassed no fewer than a staggering 450 goals in 438 appearances.

Cristiano Ronaldo

However, it has now been revealed by Calderon, speaking on Radio Villa Trinidad (via Goal), that the Portuguese’s surprise exit from ​Madrid was down to two key factors.

“Cristiano asked for a raise after winning the Champions League and Florentino denied it,” Calderon said.

“Cristiano also got angry because he heard that Madrid would be willing to pay a lot of money for Neymar. Florentino told him that if he brought in a cheque for €100m then he would let him go and that’s how it was.”

Ramon Calderon

Despite​ Ronaldo joining Madrid after Calderon had left the club, the ex-president still claimed it was the work he put in that sealed the transfer, which was completed after he was succeeded by Vicente Boluda and finally Florentino Pérez.

“Florentino did not accept that Cristiano was a signing of mine,” he added.

“I don’t deny that he has been a great president for Madrid, but he does not accept well the inheritances that he receives. The same thing happened to him with [Iker] Casillas, Raul, [Arjen] Robben and [Wesley] Sneijder.”

FBL-FRA-WC-20 YEARS

Calderon went on to further blame Perez for Zinedine Zidane’s departure as manager, insisting unfulfilled promises caused the Frenchman’s equally shocking exit from the club.

He finally said: “[…]Zidane left because he clearly knew what was going to happen. It is clear that Zidane asked Florentino Perez for something that was not granted. One of the demands was that Cristiano never leave.”

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Ernesto Valverde Provides Fitness Update on Samuel Umtiti Ahead of Real Madrid Double Header

Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde has confirmed that Samuel Umtiti is ready to return to first-team action ahead of a crunch run of games this week.

The Catalan giants face Sevilla on Saturday before taking on arch-rivals Real Madrid in midweek in the second leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final, and then meet Los Blancos again in La Liga next weekend.

FBL-EUR-C1-LYON-BARCELONA

Despite Umtiti not playing since last November, Valverde revealed the France international is ready to make his long-awaited return at the weekend.

He said (as quoted by ​Sport): “We think that Umtiti’s ready to start. Vermaelen is out injured, Lenglet has a yellow to go to complete the cycle. We all know the ability Sam has. The situation is what it is and we will see what day it is when he plays.”

Whilst ​Barcelona’s current centre-back pairing of ​Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet have formed a promising partnership in recent weeks, the latter is just a yellow card away from suspension, which would see him miss El Clasico.

Sport report that it appears more likely that Umtiti will be given the nod to start from the off against Sevilla on Saturday, thereby allowing Lenglet to come back in for the clash against ​Real Madrid

Heading into Saturday afternoon’s game at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan, league leaders Barcelona currently find themselves seven points clear of nearest title challengers Atletico Madrid.

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Karim Benzema Insists He Will Not Drive Himself ‘Crazy’ Waiting for an International Call Up

Karim Benzema is resigned to never featuring for the French national team again, with the Real Madrid star insisting that he will not “drive myself crazy waiting” for a call up from manager Didier Deschamps.

The 31-year-old hasn’t featured for Les Bleus since 2015 but his scintillating form with Real Madrid this season has raised questions over a potential recall in the near future.

But Benzema, who’s been directly involved in 25 goals this season, claims that he isn’t prepared to wait to be recalled, adding that he wishes the new generation of national team players all the best for their future with France.

I’m not going to drive myself crazy waiting for a call from the national team,” Benzema told Téléfoot (via AS). 

Karim Benzema

Besides, the France team is now something else: they are Champions of the world, there is a new generation, young players, and they are very good. I only wish them the best.”

The Lyon native was excluded from the national team set-up almost four years ago for his alleged involvement in an attempt to blackmail Mathieu Valbuena over a sex tape.


Benzema was never charged over the incident, but there has been little sign that France manager Deschamps would ever recall the Real Madrid star to his senior side.

He scored 27 goals in 81 appearances during his career with Les Bleus, which spanned over eight years having made his debut under Raymond Domenech as a teenager.

French forward Karim Benzema (L) vies wi

Benzema travelled to three major tournaments with France where he scored three goals and claimed four assists. He was also named as the country’s player of the year three times, in 2011, 2012 and 2014.

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Christian Eriksen’s Agent Provides Update on Tottenham Contract Talks Amid Real Madrid Interest

​The agent of Tottenham playmaker Christian Eriksen has opened up about his client’s future with the Premier League side, insisting a decision regarding a new contract will not be made until the end of the season.

Eriksen’s current contract is set to expire in June 2020 but Spurs chairman Daniel Levy is reportedly interested in tying the midfielder down to a long-term contract as soon as possible.

The Denmark international has been in good form all season despite Tottenham missing attacking stars Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Dele Alli at various points. 

With uncertainty surrounding the 27-year-old’s future, agent Martin Schoots has suggested contract talks with the north London side are not currently a priority.

Schoots told ESPN, as quoted by ​AS: “Christian only wants to focus himself on football. Besides his technical, tactical and athletic skills, also this attitude has contributed over the years to his impressive transformation from world class talent to world class player. 

“At this moment I would prefer not to join the speculations about contracts and transfers.”

Heung-Min Son,Christian Eriksen

The playmaker’s big name teammates like KaneAlli and Son have all recently signed new contracts with the club but Eriksen’s indecision over signing a new deal has seen ​rumours of a potential swap deal with Real Madrid involving Gareth Bale emerge.

Eriksen has become a pivotal member of the Tottenham team since his move from Ajax in 2013 and has been in good form so far this season, scoring seven goals and setting up 11 more in all competitions for his side.

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Lassana Diarra Announces Retirement From Football After Being Released by Paris Saint-Germain

Former France international midfielder Lassana Diarra has officially retired from football after having his contract with Paris Saint-Germain terminated.

The 33-year-old had been on the books at the Parc des Princes for just over a year following his return to Europe in January 2018, having spent the earlier six months playing for UAE side Al-Jazira.

But French giants Paris Saint-Germain announced on Thursday that they had parted ways with Diarra following talks with the midfielder.

Shortly after PSG made their statement, Diarra revealed on social media that he would be retiring from professional football, bringing an end to his 15-year career.


The Frenchman made his name at AC Le Havre before enjoying great success in England. He initially joined Chelsea in 2005 where he would win a Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup before going on to join Arsenal and Portsmouth, winning another FA Cup in 2008.

Diarra was then moved on to Real Madrid and once again he won every domestic trophy available to him whilst in Spain. The 33-year-old eventually went on to move to Russia before taking his first career break.

He returned to play for Olympique de Marseille for 18 months but took his second spell away from the sport in 2017. Within a couple of months, Diarra was playing for Al-Jazira.

Real Madrid's Portuguese forward Cristia

On top of his club career, Diarra also earned 34 international caps for France. He appeared at Euro 2008 despite never actually making an appearance for Les Bleus and he was most recently called up by Didier Deschamps in May 2016.

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FIFA 19 Ultimate Team: Jan Oblak, Kingsley Coman & Krzysztof Piatek Headline TOTW 23

It’s that time of the week again, with EA Sports’ FIFA 19 releasing their brand new team of the week cards for Ultimate Team.

For years now, gamers up and down the country eagerly anticipate the new release of cards rewarding some of the best individual performances from the previous week’s games from around the world.

Here, we spin you through the hottest cards featured in TOTW 23 – including a rather tasty Jan Oblak card and a deserved upgrade for in-form Milan hotshot Krzysztof Piatek.​


Jan Oblak (91)

Jan Oblak

The ​Atletico Madrid custodian has been imperious throughout this 2018/19 campaign, and this was confirmed once again with a clean sheet against Rayo Vallecano. This took his seasonal tally to a mighty 15 from 31 appearances, and his overall total to 108 in 193 Atletico outings. 

This TOTW 23 card hands Oblak a 91 rating, one up from his normal one, with 88 diving, 93 handling, 79 kicking, 90 reflexes, 45 speed and 90 positioning. Tasty stuff. 


Marquinhos (87)

Marquinhos

The conquerer of Manchester, Marquinhos put in one of the performances of the season from midfield against Manchester United at Old Trafford, as Paris Saint-Germain strode to a 2-0 victory in their ​Champions League last 16 1st leg. 

Another clean sheet followed in a tricky away clash against St-Etienne, with the Brazilian this time operating from his nominal centre back position. While that is where you’ll likely want to put this 87 rated card in your team, his significantly amplified pace (78) and dribbling (73) may push you to bend convention.


Kingsley Coman (85)

Trent Alexander-Arnold,Kingsley Coman

The French winger is fresh from wowing fans on this side of the channel with his performance against Liverpool at Anfield on Tuesday night in the Champions League, but this hallowed spot was earned from his two-goal showing against Augsburg in the Bundesliga. 

After being struck down with injury at the start of the season, Kingsley Coman is finally showing the world what he can do. With an 85 overall rating, 95 pace, 87 dribbling and 80 shooting, there’s very little he can’t do for your team. 


Radja Nainggolan (86)

Radja Nainggolan

After a difficult start to life at ​Inter following his big money move from Roma and the comparative form of Nicolo Zaniolo, who was included in said deal, Radja Nainggolan looks finally to be settling in with the Nerazzurri. 

His 78th minute score sealed all three points in a tightly contested affair with Sampdoria at San Siro, and his imbued dribbling (83), shooting (81) and physicality (84) should seal a whole load more for your side. 


Krzysztof Piatek (82)

FBL-ITA-SERIE A-ATALANTA-AC MILAN

Krzysztof Piatek is the man of the hour at ​AC Milan. After joining from Genoa for €35m in Janaury as a replacement for the Chelsea-bound Gonzalo Higuain, the Polish striker has notched six goals in five games – continuing his extraordinary goalscoring record this season. 

And this TOTW card sufficiently reflects this purple patch of form. With elite pace and shooting (both 84) coupled tantalisingly with slick dribbling (80) and boosted physicality (82), Piatek’s 82 overall card becomes one of the most complete of any of his competitors. 


Honourable Mentions

FBL-FRA-LIGUE1-OM-AMIENS

What would this list be without this man. Mario Balotelli has been electric since joining Olympique de Marseille in January, with three goals from his four games. He continued this form with a glorious back-heel in the build up to his side’s opener against SC Amiens last weekend, and a consummate finish of his own to bag the win. 

The card is equally special. With an 85 overall rating, you’ll be sure Super Mario can recreate this and more in your side. Elsewhere, former West Ham reject Sofiane Feghouli seems to have recovered his pre-Hammers form with Galatasaray, and 87 pace and 85 dribbling on an 82 overall card is not shabby at all. Don’t sleep on the 78 shooting, either.

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Barcelona Rejected Chance to Sign Real Madrid Star Karim Benzema Due to ‘Risky Attitude’

Barcelona rejected a chance to sign Karim Benzema from Lyon in 2008, after concerns were raised over the striker’s attitude and personality.

During his time with his boyhood club, Benzema established himself as one of the most exciting young prospects in the world. He would eventually move to Barcelona’s arch rivals Real Madrid, who parted with over £30m to bring the Frenchman to the Bernabeu Stadium in 2009.

News of Barcelona’s previous interest in Benzema comes from Marca, who note that the striker was Barcelona’s primary transfer target at the time.

They wrote: “Barcelona needed a forward in 2008 when Pep Guardiola arrived at the helm of the Camp Nou and did not want to count on Samuel Eto’o.

“Txiki Begisristain, then technical secretary at Barcelona, was in charge of the operation and had visited [Benzema’s] house in Lyon in order to convince him to sign for the club, with those at the Camp Nou assuming the striker would join.

Lyon French forward Karim Benzema jubila

“However, Begisristain was not happy with anything he saw. He did not like the friendships that the no. 9 had nor the way he tried to relate to him in conversation, even commenting that Benzema did not look at him during their chat.

“For one reason or another, it was decided that the club would not sign the forward as there was a risk he would become problematic and his adaptation would not be easy.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

“Zlatan Ibrahimovic arrived in the summer of 2009 in exchange for Samuel Eto’o and David Villa arrived a year later to replace the Swede.”

Benzema has since gone on to become one of the deadliest strikers of his generation and one of the all-time greats in ​Real history. He has racked up a stunning 211 goals and 120 assists in 451 appearances and has won an impressive 17 trophies during his 10 years at the club.

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Gareth Bale Linked With Sensational Return to Tottenham as Future at Real Grows Uncertain

Real Madrid winger Gareth Bale is reportedly open to a move back to former club Tottenham Hotspur, as doubts continue to swirl around the 29-year-old’s future in Spain.

Following Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure to Juventus last year, many at Madrid thought that the Welshman would thrive as the club’s leading forward.

However, despite featuring on 30 occasions for Los Blancos this season, Bale has only managed to score twelve goals in all competitions with just six of those coming in La Liga.

Gareth Bale

Under new manager Santiago Solari, the Wales international has found himself out of favour in recent weeks having started just two of the last seven games that he’s been available for selection, falling behind Karim Benzema and youngster Vinicius Junior in the pecking order.

According to Spanish newspaper Marca, as quoted by Sportswitness, Los Blancos are willing to cut ties with Bale in order to finance other transfer deals in the summer, with Tottenham rumoured to be one of the clubs that they would be willing to negotiate with.

However, any deal involving the former Southampton star with Spurs may involve Christian Eriksen going in the opposite direction as Madrid look to freshen up their creative options at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Christian Eriksen

The Dane has been in fine form this season, scoring seven goals and providing twelve assists for his team-mates from attacking midfield and has been linked with a move in the past to both Madrid and Barcelona.

Whether Tottenham would be willing to sacrifice Eriksen for the return of Bale, who left the club in 2013 for £85.3m, could depend on the future of their manager Mauricio Pochettino as the Argentinian continues to be touted as a permanent replacement for Jose Mourinho at Manchester United.

If Spurs do try to bring the winger back to the Premier League they could face competition from the Red Devils for his signature, with Chelsea also thought to be monitoring the winger’s situation.

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Real Madrid Could End Interest in Eden Hazard as Los Blancos Step Up Pursuit of Neymar

​Real Madrid could bring their long-term interest in Eden Hazard to an end, as they continue to set their sights on snapping up Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain.

Los Blancos have come under fire in recent years for their lack of marquee signings and are yet to fill the gap left behind by Cristiano Ronaldo after the Portuguese superstar made the switch to Juventus last summer.

According to ​The Times, ​Real have now firmly set their sights on signing ​Neymar this summer and are prepared to top his current salary which sits at more than £25m a year.

In contrast to recent ​comments made by Neymar’s father, the Brazilian is said to have welcomed the interest from Los Blancos and is more than interested in moving over to the Spanish capital.

The deal has been made all the more likely after the emergence of ​Kylian Mbappe at PSG, coupled with the pressure the club are under to adhere to Uefa Financial Fair Play regulations. 

If PSG were to sell Neymar, then they would free up some valuable space on their wage bill, as well as making back a significant portion of the fee they originally payed ​Barcelona back in 2017.

Eden Hazard

If a deal is agreed for Neymar, this would subsequently bring an end to Real’s pursuit of Hazard, as Real would no longer have the financial means to match Chelsea’s lofty valuation of the 28-year-old.

Negotiations surrounding a new contract have been ongoing, but an agreement has yet to be reached – in spite of the fact that Hazard previously claimed to have come to decision about his future.

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