UEFA European Under-21 Championship Roundup: Spain Qualify as Italy Are Left to Await Their Fate

Italy’s excellent win over Belgium may not have been enough to help them qualify for the knockout round, as the Azzurrini now must await the results of Romania, France, Austria and Denmark to find out their chances of making it through to the next round. 

Meanwhile, Spain qualified for the knockout round in emphatic fashion after they defeated Poland 5-0. It was a disappointing end to the tournament for Poland, who had won both of their group stage games prior to facing Spain. 

Spain will now face one of Germany, Denmark, Austria, France or Romania on 27 June, While Italy will have to rely on the fixtures going their way if they are to keep their tournament hopes alive. 


Belgium 1-3 Italy

The Azzurrini should have been ahead after just seven minutes but a poor Nicolò Barella header, who missed just yards from goal, meant the game stayed 0-0 for much of the first half. 

Italy dominated throughout and easily had the most shots on goal. They took a much-deserved lead just before half-time courtesy of a Barella strike, making up for his mistake earlier in the half. 


Italy started the second half strongly and went 2-0 up after 53 minutes, when Giuseppe Pezzella’s cross met the head of ​Milan striker Patrick Cutrone, who squared the ball into the far corner. 

The Azzurrini continued to dominate with Manuel Locatelli and Rolando Mandragora coming close before Belgium’s Yari Verschaeren scored a spectacular goal from outside the box just 12 minutes from time, giving the Red Devils a fighting chance.

Italy capped off their impressive performance with a strike from Federico Chiesa in the 89th minute, but not before a VAR check which judged the goal to be onside. 

It was a night to forget for the Belgians and this was compounded with an Isaac Mbenza red card in the 90th minute. The ​Huddersfield forward was given his marching orders after receiving a second yellow card just 19 minutes after coming on as a substitute.


Spain 5-0 Poland

Luis de la Fuente’s side had a flurry of chances during the first 15 minutes. Dinamo Zagreb winger Dani Olmo came close after 11 minutes, his rocket prompting a great save from Poland goalkeeper Kamil Grabara. 

It was up to midfielder Pablo Fornals to break the deadlock. A pass from Aarón Martín prompted the new ​West Ham midfielder to stretch his right leg to put the ball in the back of the net after 17 minutes. 


Spain continued to control the game. ​Napoli midfielder Fabián Ruiz came close after 34 minutes, hitting the woodwork before Mikel Oyarzabal put La Rojita up 2-0 just seconds later. 

Ruiz got a well-earned goal just four minutes later, thumping the ball home to give Spain a 3-0 lead going into the break. 

Not complacent with the three-goal lead, Spain kept Poland goalkeeper Grabara busy throughout the second half, prompting more impressive saves. Oyarzabal suffered an injury after 54 minutes and had to be stretchered off. 

Dani Ceballos extended Spain’s lead after 70 minutes after his free-kick found the top corner, putting the game well and truly to bed. Borja Mayoral added to Poland’s misery just one minute from time, his strike easily beating a visibly defeated Grabara. 


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Toni Kroos Reveals Regret Over Signing Bayern Munich Contract Extension in 2010

​Toni Kroos has criticised Bayern Munich’s management of his career when he was was a youngster, adding that he regretted signing a contract extension with the club back in 2010.

After initially joining Bayern back in 2006, Kroos managed just five Bundesliga starts in two-and-a-half years, before joining Bayer Leverkusen on loan in January 2009. Once he returned 18 months later, he renewed his contract and began to blossom into one of the world’s finest midfielders.

Toni Kroos

Speaking in his upcoming film ‘KROOS’ (via ​Goal), ​Kroos admits he regretted renewing his contract with ​Bayern just minutes after signing off on the deal.

He said: “I was often told how great I was and how I was doing everything right. Still I did not play. I was convinced I deserved more.

“Originally I did not want to return [from Leverkusen]. When I signed my extension, I rued it ten minutes later.

Toni Kroos

“While I signed the contract, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge commented: ‘Wow, you have got a great contract now.’ It was like he told me: ‘So now you have to play a little better.'”

The film features insight from officials who have worked alongside Kroos throughout his career, including Bayern president Uli Hoeness, who confessed that the club did not want to part ways with Kroos.

He added: “Toni is a great player. But there is not one player in the world who can do everything all by himself. A club sometimes has to make hard decisions. This decision [to sell him] was a hard one and maybe a wrong one, no doubt.”

Toni Kroos

After returning from his loan spell, Kroos went on to make 176 for the Bavarians, winning two ​Bundesliga titles, two DFB-Pokal cups and also the ​Champions League in 2013. However, he brought his time in Germany to an end in 2014, opting to make the switch to ​Real Madrid.

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Real Madrid Director Reveals Why ‘Unaffordable’ Lionel Messi Has Never Been a Transfer Target

​Real Madrid board member Jeronimo Farre has bizarrely been asked about potential interest in Lionel Messi over the years, explaining that an approach for Barcelona’s talisman has never been ‘feasible or affordable.’ 

The Argentine’s fierce loyalty to the only club he has ever played for, coupled with his status as the best player in the world, mean that he has scarcely ever been realistically linked with a move anywhere – much less to their bitter rivals Real. 

Lionel Messi

There have been instances of players crossing the picket line before, with Luis Figo, Bernd Schuster and Michael Laudrup among others who have historically swapped Camp Nou for the Bernabeu. The modern footballing climate and the duopoly the two clubs have created over Spanish football, however, means that ​Messi following suit is unthinkable to anyone with a brain. 

Regardless, reporters in Spain saw fit to ask the question anyway for some reason, as El Mundo (via The Mirror) quote the following response from Farre. 

“If Messi hasn’t played in Madrid it’s because we’ve not been able to make it happen, because he hasn’t been feasible or affordable.

“The other mega star was ​Cristiano Ronaldo, and Madrid enjoy his talent for nine seasons.”

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​Real are famed for their ‘price is no question’ approach to the transfer market, but it is far from surprising to hear that Messi – a five-time Ballon d’Or winner who has netted 603 goals (and counting) for their famous rivals – has been a couple of steps too far even for Los Galacticos. 

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8 Players Who Always Seem to Play Better for Their National Side

We have seen plenty of player fail to deliver on the international stage in the past, as they struggle to replicate the sort of club form that saw them earn a call up to their national side in the first place.

That isn’t always the case, however, as some players come into their own when they don the national team jersey.

Here’s a list of eight players who always seem to reserve their best form for their countries.


​Alexis Sanchez

Alexis Sanchez

It’s no small secret that ​Alexis Sanchez has been pretty diabolical since making the move over to ​Manchester United last January, 

The Chilean forward arrived with plenty of fanfare after his impressive displays for Arsenal, but he has fallen well short of what was expected of him, registering just five goals in 45 appearances – not ideal.

But is simply the case that United is the problem and not Sanchez? He’s now scored two goals in his opening two games for Chile at the Copa America, matching his tally for the 2018/19 season. He’s always performed well for Chile, regardless of where he has been playing his club football – with his 2016 Copa America showing being the highlight – so he’s not a bad a player as his United form would have you believe. In fact, he’s really rather good.


Enner Valencia

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​West Ham and ​Everton supporters will be wondering what on earth Enner Valencia is doing here. Did you not see him during his time in the Premier League?

We did and, yes, he wasn’t very good. He proved to be a clumsy mess of flailing limbs and loose touches who ​was far from prolific in front of goal. He netted ten times in 68 appearances for West Ham and, for some reason, was loaned out to Everton where he was even less of a threat in front of goal.

However, it’s a different story altogether when he lines up for Ecuador. He’s score 29 goals in 50 appearances, meaning he’s averaging at least a goal every two games for the national side. It was his form on the international stage that earned him a move to West Ham in the first place, as he scored three goals at the 2014 World Cup.


Guillermo Ochoa

Guillermo Ochoa

There’s something about international tournaments that bring the very best out of Mexican keeper Guillermo Ochoa.

He was arguably the most impressive goalkeeper of the 2014 World Cup, as he almost single-handedly dragged Mexico into the knockout rounds, only to be cruelly knocked out by the Netherlands. He was just as impressive four years later, demonstrating his incredible reactions and spectacular agility once again, starring in tough fixtures against Germany and Brazil.

If you have only ever seen Ochoa play for Mexico, then you would be forgiven for assuming that he probably plys his trade for one of the best teams in Europe. On the contrary, Ochoa’s club career has been remarkably unexceptional. Since making the move over to Europe he’s fielded for AC Ajaccio, Malaga, Granada and, most recently, Standard Liege in Belgium.


Mauricio Isla

Mauricio Isla

Another Chilean who has helped to deliver so much success on the international stage (apart from the failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup), Mauricio Isla’s club career has never really taken off.

He enjoyed a decent spell at Udinese, before failing to make much of an impact at ​Juventus, Marseille and Cagliari – as well as a bizarre loan spell at ​Queen’s Park Rangers in 2015 where he went completely under the radar.

He’s made over 100 appearances for Chile since making his debut back in 2007 and continues to hold down the right-back position for La Roja – while also being more than capable of pushing forward to right-midfield.


Xherdan Shaqiri

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It would be a little unfair to suggest that Xherdan Shaqiri’s club career has been underwhelming, but he always looks like a different proposition when he takes to the field for Switzerland.

The ​Liverpool winger never been a prolific scorer – that’s not his game – but there has always been a lingering sense that he could provide more in the final third when you consider his undeniable talent.  This is especially true when you compare his club statistics to his international statistics.

The most goals he has ever scored for a single club is 23 for Basel, while he has scored 22 for Switzerland in 50 fewer games. You can’t argue that his increased sense of accountability is the reason for his improved form for Switzerland either, as he was frustratingly inconsistent during his time at Stoke.


Keisuke Honda

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Honda has technically retired from national team duties, but he hasn’t hung up his boots completely – so he gets a spot on this list.

The Japanese midfielder broke onto the scene at the 2010 World Cup with some excellent performances, registering two goals and an assist, and he continued to play a starring role for Japan in the following years. He also became the first Japanese player to score at three consecutive World Cups when he found the back of the net against Senegal in 2018.

Unfortunately, his domestic career hasn’t been quite so inspiring. He enjoyed a few decent seasons with CSKA Moscow before earning a big move to ​Milan in 2013, but it was clear to see that his best years were already behind him as he struggled to nail down a starting XI spot with I Rossoneri.


Asamoah Gyan

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Asamoah Gyan returned to headlines after strangely making a U-turn on his decision to retire from international duty, following a discussion with Ghana’s president prior to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.

The ramifications of that saga aside, Gyan was consistently excellent for Ghana and is the country’s record scorer, so you can understand why they wanted him to compete at one last tournament this summer. He’s scored 51 goals for the west African nation, with his most notable performances coming at the 2010 World Cup.

He has been somewhat of a journeyman on the club scene, playing in France, Italy, England, China, Turkey and, most successfully in the United Arab Emirates with Al-Ain FC.


James Rodriguez

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James Rodriguez is a sensational player, but has he lived up to the hype that was surrounding him when he stole the show at the 2014 World Cup? Probably not.

He was awarded the Golden Boot in Brazil after scoring five goals in five games and earned himself a big-money move to ​Real Madrid, where he was soon pushed to the side after some disappointing performances. A loan move to ​Bayern Munich followed, but he was unable to convince the Bundesliga outfit to snap him up on a permanent deal.

His future remains uncertain as Real Madrid don’t seem keen on keeping him around at the Bernabeu, but his recent performances at the Copa America have indicated that he still has plenty to offer.

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Twitter Reacts as Real Madrid Recreate Plot of ‘Goal!’ With Pursuit of Newcastle’s Miguel Almiron

The summer transfer window can get a little bit crazy – a lack of domestic football can do funny things to people – but it’s never supposed to get this crazy.

Yes, you read the headline correctly. Real Madrid are being linked with an approach for Newcastle’s Miguel Almiron, just a few months after the Paraguayan signed for the Magpies.

​Reports from Paraguay claim that ​Real Madrid – yes, the same Real Madrid who have already secured big-money deals for Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic and Ferland Mendy – are following Almiron ‘very closely’. Right.

It’s an unsubstantiated claim which the Spanish press seem to have no idea about, so it’s probably safe to assume that it’s a load of tosh. But that doesn’t stop it from being really, really funny – especially because it closely resembles a story plenty of us should be familiar with.

Whether or not they’ve done it intentionally, the reports have essentially recreated the plot of the greatest film trilogy of all time (yeah, that’s right, the GREATEST) – Goal!.

In case you aren’t already aware, Goal! depicts the story of a promising Latin American footballer who gets his big break with a move to ​Newcastle. He ends up scoring with the last kick of the season to send the Magpies into the Champions League final, before earning a big move to, you guessed it, Real Madrid in the sequel.

Of course, Twitter was quick to jump on the rumours…

​​

​​Almiron was already being compared to the film’s protagonist Santiago Muñez when he arrived in the northeast, but this latest story has all but confirmed the fact that he IS Santiago Muñez.

All that’s missing now is a tempestuous English striker who joins Almiron on his journey from Newcastle to Real Madrid. Anyone know if Dwight Gayle fancies a trip to Spain?

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6 Footballers Who Had Their Reputations Ruined by One Bad Career Move

​Fernando Torres, remember him? He used to score goals for fun and terrorise top-flight defences.

Well, that was when he was at Anfield. You may recall the other Fernando Torres, the one who couldn’t hit a cow’s behind with a banjo. Yes, poor old Fernando went from lethal marksman to laughable misfit after joining Chelsea for £50m in 2011 (back when £50m was actually £50m). 

Once a contender for PFA Teams of the Year and the ​Premier League Golden Boot, third in the 2008 Ballon d’Or, Torres first became something of a joke and then a pitied, out-of-sorts striker in the space of about three months.

That’s all behind him now, with the World Cup winner announcing his retirement from football on Friday. To pay homage to his volatile career, here’s a look at six other players whose reputations were damaged by unwise moves.


Andriy Shevchenko

Andriy Shevchenko

In many ways, Shevchenko was the original big-money flop, the man who paved the way for future flops to go about their flopping. He was a pioneer, if you will.

He totted up some impressive tallies with boyhood side Dynamo Kyiv, hitting 33 goals in his final two seasons in the Ukrainian capital. His performances got even better following a record $25m switch to ​Milan in 1999, the striker collecting a pair of​ Champions League titles and amassing over 25 scores in all bar two of his seven campaigns with the Rossoneri.

Then came the eye-watering £35m move to ​Chelsea in 2006, for whom he netted just nine goals in 48 Premier League appearances.

The best explanation for his disturbingly quick drop-off is that the forward simply didn’t gel with his Blues teammates early enough and never regained his confidence, thereafter. 


Jack Rodwell

Jack Rodwell

I remember Rodwell’s breakthrough year at ​Everton. He swept home a delightful goal during a 3-1 victory over ​Manchester United in February 2010 – the first match I had ever seen him play – and looked so composed, so assured and so ready to take the league by storm.

Then he decided on a move to ​Manchester City, a transfer from which he never recovered. Given the Sky Blues’ astronomical spending in the past decade, £10m for the midfielder doesn’t seem too bad.

It was arguably the worst £10m they ever paid. Rodwell never seemed comfortable at the Etihad Stadium and it was readily apparent that he was out of his depth. He continued to deteriorate following a switch to Sunderland, both physically and mentally, eventually refusing to play for the club.

He has been handed a lifeline by Championship outfit Blackburn Rovers, though it is one that many feel he doesn’t deserve. Despite his steep salary rinsing Sunderland, Rodwell didn’t answer the call in their time of need. Criminal.


Alexis Sanchez

Alexis Sanchez

This one is actually hilarious. Sanchez was marvellous whilst at ​Arsenal, offering a deadly goalscoring threat, as well as producing neat interplay with teammates.

At United, however, he’s like a different person. From the moment he missed an open goal against​ Newcastle United less than a month into his Old Trafford career, his spell in the north-west appeared to be doomed. And so it proved, with Sanchez looking more like an imposter than a footballer these days.

He has now become a figure of ridicule for opposition fans and a focal point for Red Devils supporters to vent their frustrations. It still makes me chuckle when I remember that United pay up to £500,000-a-week for his… services?


Andy Carroll

Andy Carroll

When you uncover the real story behind Carroll’s insane £35m transfer to ​Liverpool, it’s actually rather sad. The Geordie loved his boyhood Newcastle and agreed to join the Reds because he knew the significance of such a ridiculous sum of money to the Magpies.

He didn’t want to go, yet still received abuse from the Toon Army for what was, in reality, a selfless act (sort of). The footballing gods were uninterested in Carroll’s righteousness, though, and struck him down with a plague of poor form and relentless, niggling injuries.

Currently 30 years-of-age, the England international is little more than a squad player at ​West Ham United, only once making more than 20 league appearances for the Hammers since his £15m acquisition. Things looked decidedly more rosy before that fateful transfer to Anfield.


Robinho

Ched Evans,Robinho

Robinho effectively performed a character assassination on himself after initially looking like a Manchester City legend in the making. The Citizens made him the Premier League’s most expensive purchase in 2008, taking him away from ​Real Madrid for the lofty price of £32.5m.

In the 31 top-flight matches he featured in during his debut campaign, the Brazilian collected an admirable 14 goals, whilst also acting as the creative heartbeat of the side. And then he decided Manchester was too cold and rainy…

Robinho only scored once the following year, the final goal in a 4-2 FA Cup defeat of the mighty Scunthorpe United. He was shipped off to his homeland on loan for the second half of the season, before being offloaded to Milan that summer, never to be seen on these shores again.


Kaka

Kaka

Kaka was sublime at San Siro, fuelling Milan’s charge to two Champions League finals. he was just so elegant and gracious on the ball, yet also capable of devastating opponents.

The €68.5m sum Real forked out for him in 2009 by no means seemed over the top at the time the deal was struck for the 2007 Ballon d’Or winner. 12 months later, however, and it felt as though the Serie A side had duped their illustrious Spanish rivals.

Kaka was half the player at the Bernabeu and ghosted through many games. Massively overshadowed and outlasted by Cristiano Ronaldo, Xabi Alonso and Karim Benzema who signed the same summer, Kaka’s time with Los Blancos is characterised by struggles and disappointment.


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Transfer Rumours: Alonso to Stay at Chelsea, Romagnoli to Barcelona, Wilson to West Ham & More

Club football is gone for the summer, and the focus is now solely on the transfer window.

The basic recipe for a transfer story is to take literally any player in the world and link them to either Real Madrid or Manchester United, but (believe it or not) other teams occasionally involve themselves in the transfer market too.

Here are nine stories for you to keep an eye on.


Forgotten Newcastle Winger Rolando Aarons Tipped to Make Greece Move

Rolando Aarons

Cast your mind back to 2014. A young Rolando Aarons looked destined for the top after shining for ​Newcastle United in pre-season and the early weeks of the 2014/15 ​Premier League season. Then he went down with a hamstring injury, and it was game over. Yikes.

Now 23, Aarons has not been seen at St James’ Park since 2017, and his days at the club look to be numbered. ​SDNA claim that Greek sides Panathinaikos and AEK are both ready to offer him a lifeline (if you can even call it that), but the move could collapse as a result of Newcastle’s ludicrous demands.

The Magpies want 50% of his wages to be paid if he heads out on loan, with a mandatory purchase clause of around £6m. Yes, £6m for a player who hasn’t turned out for the club in around 18 months, and barely managed to impress on loan in the Czech Republic last season. This may be a business, but that’s a step too far.


Spurs Identify Alternative to Ryan Sessegnon as Inter Join Race for Fulham Star

Aboubakar Kamara

​Tottenham Hotspur look to have finally remembered that you are actually allowed to sign players, but reports suggest they could be in for a frustrating summer.

The first player on their radar is ​Fulham’s Ryan Sessegnon but, according to ​Tuttosport, ​Inter are desperate to lure the 19-year-old away from England, so Spurs have been forced to look elsewhere.

​Fotomac add that Spurs are pushing to sign Fenerbahce wonderkid Eljif Elmas, and have already lodged a bid of €19m plus forgotten forward ​Vincent Janssen. Surely Spurs can’t go another window without a transfer?


Martin Odegaard Spotted Heading to Germany Ahead of Move Away From Real Madrid

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Poor Martin Odegaard. He really was a victim of the hysteria when he joined ​Real Madrid as a 15-year-old, and things have not worked out at all. Many fans have labelled him as a flop, and his tumultuous time in Madrid looks to be coming to an end, with a move to Bayer Leverkusen thought to be on the cards.

Norwegian outlet ​TV2 fuelled talk of such a move as they claimed to see Odegaard and his representatives board a flight to Dusseldorf, suggesting he could make the short drive to Bayer’s headquarters to negotiate a move.

Whether it will be a permanent switch or just a loan remains to be seen, but it seems like all signs point to the ​Bundesliga for Odegaard.


Juventus to Land Sassuolo Star Merih Demiral in €15m Deal 

Six months ago, Merih Demiral was an unknown centre-back playing in Turkey. Now, he is set to become a vital part of ​Juventus’ squad, after impressing in a brief spell with Sassuolo. Talk about an astronomical rise.

​Football Italia state that Demiral underwent a medical with the ​Serie A giants on Wednesday, after they agreed a €15m fee to sign the highly rated 21-year-old.

The report adds that Demiral turned down offers from plenty of European giants, and he is set to be rewarded with a regular place in Juventus’ team.


West Ham Look to Callum Wilson After Maxi Gomez Deal Collapses

Callum Wilson

You’ve got to respect ​West Ham United’s determination. They have been chasing strikers for what feels like an eternity but, despite setback after setback, they show no signs of giving up.

Celta Vigo star Maxi Gomez, who has been pursued by the Hammers for months, has been tipped to move to Valencia instead, ​which has forced West Ham to look elsewhere. The next man in their sights is ​Bournemouth hitman Callum Wilson who, according to ​The Sun, is now Manuel Pellegrini’s top priority this summer.

West Ham are ready to offer up to £35m for Wilson, who was one of the Premier League’s top scorers last season. Bournemouth won’t want to lose him, but money talks.


PSG Ready €30m Bid for Sandro Tonali as They Look to Replicate Marco Verratti Success

Sandro Tonali

Ah, Sandro Tonali. Otherwise known as ‘The Best Player You’ve Never Seen Play’, the 19-year-old is surely nearing his first taste of top-flight action, and it may be Paris Saint-Germain who can offer him that this summer.

​L’Equipe state that sporting director Leonardo is infatuated by Tonali,​ having spent plenty of time monitoring the midfielder whilst working for ​AC Milan. PSG are thought to be lining up a €30m bid, and history shows that they would not be scared to use him.

Back in 2012, they fought off competition from across Europe for a young Pescara midfielder by the name of Marco Verratti, who has since gone on to win 21 trophies in Paris. If Tonali can manage half of that, PSG will have struck gold.


Atletico Unwilling to Meet Chelsea’s Demands Over Marcos Alonso

Chelsea Training Session

​First ​Chelsea reject ​Atletico Madrid’s bid for ​Willian, and now it looks like they have scared off Los Rojiblancos once more. Look away, Chelsea fans.

According to ​COPE, Chelsea demanded €40m for ​Marcos Alonso, prompting Atletico to instantly end negotiations. The left-back is thought to be keen on the move, but not enough to actually force an exit from Stamford Bridge.

With this deal seemingly dead in the water, Blues fans have plenty of time to prepare themselves for the Alonso-Willian partnership on the left wing next season. Don’t let rival fans see you crying.


AC Milan Reject €40m Barcelona Bid for Alessio Romagnoli

Alessio Romagnoli

Some transfer sagas go on for far too long (just look at Matthijs de Ligt – make up your mind already). However, ​Barcelona’s pursuit of AC Milan star Alessio Romagnoli doesn’t look to be heading in that direction.

According to Tuttosport (via ​Calciomercato), the Blaugrana came in with a €40m bid, but Milan simply told them to stop wasting their time. The message was simple: Romagnoli is not for sale.

Romagnoli doesn’t want to leave either, so there doesn’t look to be much chance of this one going through. Case closed.

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Fernando Torres: The Greatest XI to Play Alongside El Niño

After announcing his retirement from football, Fernando Torres leaves behind a remarkable career brimming with honours, both collective and individual.

The Spanish forward was a Champions League, FA Cup and two-time Europa League winner at club level, and World Cup and two-time European Championship winner at international level. 

Spain’s third highest international goal scorer, Torres scored the winning goal in the Euro 2008 final and won the Golden Boot for highest goalscorer at Euro 2012, highlighting the impact he had on Spain’s success.

Over the years, he’s played with some of the game’s greatest players – here’s his best XI…


Goalkeeper and Defenders

Sergio Ramos,Gerard Pique,Iker Casillas

Iker Casillas (GK) – In his prime, Casillas was renowned for his incredible agility and cat-like reflexes. ‘The Saint’ was Torres’ captain for the Spain national team, and was an influential leader as they won three major international tournaments on the bounce. 

Sergio Ramos (RB) – Although ​Ramos has cemented himself as one of the best central defenders of the past decade, he in fact began his career at right back, where he was deployed during Euro 2008. Tenacious in everything he does, Ramos is a born winner. 

Gerard Pique (CB) – Calm and composed both in and out of possession, ​Pique is a modern day great, with over 400 appearances for ​Barcelona and Spain sides which have – for large stretches – dominated in the world of football. 

John Terry (CB) – Included in the FIFPro World XI for five consecutive seasons from 2005 to 2009, Terry is considered one of the greatest defenders of his generation. The former ​Chelsea captain was known for his leadership skills, his heading ability and his reading of the game, while capable of popping up with a goal from a set piece too. 

Ashley Cole (LB) – Cole was, for many years, widely considered the best left back in the world, an all-rounder who was as capable defensively as he was overlapping forward. A key member of the Chelsea side which won the Champions League in 2012 alongside Torres. 

Midfielders

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Xabi Alonso (DM) – A colleague of Torres both for Spain and for ​Liverpool, Alonso was as accurate from 50 yards as he was from five. A cool head in front of the back four, Alonso was a mainstay for Spain during his peak years – no easy feat, considering the level of talent in the squad. 

Steven Gerrard (CM) – Omitting Gerrard from this XI would have been blasphemous considering the telepathic understanding he had with Torres during the Spaniard’s spell on Merseyside. An all-round midfielder who would regularly pick out El Niño’s runs, Torres and Gerrard’s partnership was a joy to watch.

Xavi (CM) – Viewed as the embodiment of the ‘tiki-taka’ passing style of play, Xavi was a generational talent who amassed a haul of trophies and awards. With a low centre of gravity and a quick-thinking football brain, Xavi rarely lost possession of the ball – ever.

Andres Iniesta (CM) – A similar and equally breathtaking talent, Iniesta’s guile and grace, coupled with his movement and dribbling, was mesmeric at times. His winning goal in the 2010 World Cup Final against the Netherlands provided Torres with one of his greatest achievements. 


Forwards

Didier Drogba

Didier Drogba (ST) – Although the two never fully gelled on the pitch, it’s difficult to ignore Drogba when considering the best players that Torres has played with. A scorer in four FA Cup finals, as well as the talisman behind Chelsea’s Champions League final triumph over Bayern Munich with his late headed equaliser, Drogba was the ultimate big game player. 

David Villa (ST) – With 59 goals in 98 games for Spain, Villa is his countries all-time top goalscorer. A deadly finisher with both feet, combined with rapid acceleration and precise movement, Villa was one of the greatest goal scorers of his era.

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Zinedine Zidane Reveals Why Real Madrid Have Completed Summer Deals Early

Zinedine Zidane has revealed he wanted to get Real Madrid’s summer transfer business done quickly as they look to close the gap on La Liga champions and bitter rivals Barcelona.

Real Madrid have completed five high profile signings already this summer, including Belgium star Eden Hazard, striker Luka Jovic and most recently Ferland Mendy from Lyon. Despite having broken their summer spending record, they continue to be linked high profile players.

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Zidane acknowledged in an interview with the executive chairman of the International Champions Cup competition and published by ​Marca that having his signings available for pre-season is what the club had planned for.

The Frenchman said: “We are going to have all types of players, from the new signings to the players that are already on the team to the young players who can support and add a lot to a team in pre-season.

“[To have our signings available for the entire pre-season] is our plan and what we want. That is why we already bought players, so that they are ready with us and prepared.

“As you know, the pre-season for a player is very important. The important thing is that they are with us from day one.

“They will have played games with their national teams, but will have around one month of vacation and they will be with us.”

Los Blancos are confirmed to face Bayern Munich, Arsenal, ​Atletico Madrid and Tottenham in pre-season and Zidane has eluded to the importance of the Madrid derby and is very much relishing the game, despite the timing of it. 

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He added: “It is a very nice game for all the fans, especially in New York,” Zidane said. “For the clubs, it is important because we want to give the fans a good image of Madrid.

“We are going to try to have a great game and show how good the two teams are. I have a lot of respect for Simeone as I do for all managers.

“He has been training for a long time and works very well with his coaching staff. He has a good team and is part of a big club. He does a great job and I respect him a lot.” 

Let’

The 50 Most Expensive Football Transfers of All Time

A large transfer fee can be a blessing or a curse. 

It is a sign of great faith to spend such a huge amount of money on one player, but it carries with it the expectation that the player will reward that faith with performances – and if they do not, fans will not be forgiving. 

Many great players have risen to the pressure of their transfer fee, but others have been crushed under the burden of expectations placed upon them. 

Let’s take a look at the 50 most expensive transfers of all time.


50) Bernardo Silva – Monaco to Manchester City (€50m, 2017)

Bernardo Silva

After Bernardo Silva’s wonderful 2016/17 season at Monaco, in which he played a major part in the principality’s Ligue 1 triumph, Manchester City came a-knocking and brought the Portuguese international to the Etihad.

Silva has gone on to become a key member of Pep Guardiola’s squad, scoring 22 goals in 100 appearances over the course of two seasons, and winning back-to-back Premier League titles as well as the FA Cup, Community Shield and the Carabao Cup.


49) Eliaquim Mangala – Porto to Manchester City (€51.7m, 2014)

Eliaquim Mangala

After three successful years with Portuguese giants Porto, Eliaquim Mangala became Manchester City’s then-record signing, joining the club for a reported fee of €51.7m. 

The centre back had a difficult start to his Premier League career, with his transfer delayed and then arriving at the club injured. Despite an impressive debut against Chelsea, his next match against Hull City was one he would be happy to forget, heading in an own-goal and conceding a penalty.

Despite an upturn in form that earned him a spot in France’s Euro 2016 squad, Manuel Pellegrini decided to spend £32m on Nicolas Otamendi and Mangala was sent off on loan to Valencia and then Everton.


48) Gianluigi Buffon – Parma to Juventus (€52m, 2001)

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The legendary goalkeeper made history when he joined Juventus from Parma in what was then a world record fee for a keeper, a record that remained firmly in place for 17 years.

Gianluigi Buffon went on to achieve legendary status at Turin, making over 650 appearances for I Bianconeri over the course of 17 years, winning nine Serie A titles, four Coppa Italia’s, five Supercoppa Italiana’s, and one Serie B title.

Notoriously known for winning every possible title except the Champions League, Buffon decided to leave Juventus and move on to Paris Saint-Germain in 2018.


47) Alexandre Lacazette – Lyon to Arsenal (€53m + €7m in Add-Ons, 2017)

Alexandre Lacazette

After failing to secure a move to Atletico Madrid when their two-window transfer ban was upheld by CAS, Alexandre Lacazette left Lyon to join Arsenal, setting the record for the highest figure ever paid to the French club in a transfer and becoming the Gunners’ most expensive player.

Lacazette scored 17 goals in his debut season at the Emirates, and after the arrival of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, formed a deadly striking partnership with the Gabonese international. 

In the 2018/19 season he scored 19 goals as Arsenal reached the final of the Europa League, and was named the Gunners’ player of the season by the fans.


46) Hernan Crespo – Parma to Lazio (€55m, 2000)

Lazio v Leeds

After scoring 80 goals over the course of four seasons at Parma, Hernan Crespo became the most expensive player in the world when he was acquired by Serie A champions Lazio.

In his debut season, Crespo proved he was worth every penny by ending the campaign as the league’s top scorer with 26 goals, though Lazio failed to defend their title. Numerous injuries, as well as Lazio’s financial troubles, saw him suffer from a lack of support in attack and he was sold to Inter in 2002.


45) Kyle Walker – Tottenham to Manchester City (€56.7m, 2017)

Kyle Walker

After spending six years with Tottenham, Kyle Walker became the most expensive defender in the world when he was transferred to ​Manchester City, as Guardiola began a major defensive upheaval at the club.

Walker became a dominant figure in City’s defence, helping the club win the Premier League title in both seasons since joining.


44) John Stones – Everton to Manchester City (€58m, 2016)

John Stones

Beginning his career at Championship side Barnsley before moving on to a successful spell at Everton, John Stones became the second most-expensive defender in the world, at the time, when he was bought by Guardiola’s City.

His arrival at the Etihad was notorious for being accidentally leaked ahead of the official announcement, having been included in the Citizens’ Champions League Play-Offs squad list which was published on UEFA’s website.


43) Benjamin Mendy – Monaco to Manchester City (€58.2m, 2017)

Benjamin Mendy

Part of the historic Monaco side that beat out Paris Saint-Germain to the Ligue 1 title in 2016/17, Monaco became the next member of Guardiola’s defensive revolution at City, joining the club in a five-year deal and eclipsing the world record for a defender, set only ten days earlier by Walker.

Mendy’s career at City has been injury-ravaged, missing out on most of both seasons since joining the club and undergoing two major surgeries. However, he has managed to become a one of the fans’ favourite players due to his social media presence and attitude.


42) Hulk – Zenit St Petersburg to Shanghai SIPG (€58.6m, 2016)

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The Brazilian behemoth set an Asian football record when he left Zenit St Petersburg to join Chinese side Shanghai SIPG in 2016.

However, he managed to make only seven appearances in his debut season due to injury, but went on to become one of the symbols of the Chinese league – winning the league title in 2018 and being named in the team of the season in 2017 and 2018.


41) Jorginho – Napoli to Chelsea (€58.9m, 2018)

Jorginho

Jorginho was the star of Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli side, and when the manager joined Chelsea in 2018 he made the Italian midfielder his main transfer target. Despite interest from Manchester City, Jorginho joined his former manager at Stamford Bridge and made his debut in the Community Shield against City.

His season at Chelsea started well, in their third Premier League match of the campaign Jorginho completed 158 passes, setting a new record for the most passes completed by a Chelsea player in a single league match, and breaking the record for most attempted passes with 180 three games later.

With Sarri moving on to Juventus this summer, Jorginho just might complete another huge transfer in the near future.


40) Fred – Shakhtar Donetsk to Manchester United (€58.9m, 2018)

Fred

After spending five years with Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk, a club well-known for purchasing and developing young Brazilian stars, Fred completed a big money move to Manchester United in 2018.

Despite the monster fee, Fred failed to leave a lasting impression in his first season at Old Trafford, making just 17 appearances in all competitions as he couldn’t break his way into the starting XI under both Jose Mourinho and his successor Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.


39) Fernando Torres – Liverpool to Chelsea (€59m, 2011)

Fernando Torres

El Nino’s exploits over the course of his four seasons at Liverpool were constantly accompanied by rumours of a big-money move to Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea, and despite constant denials from both the club and the player, Fernando Torres completed his transfer to Stamford Bridge in January 2011.

However, he failed to live up to the enormously high expectations with the Blues, scoring just one goal in his debut campaign and failing to reach double figures in any of his three-and-a-half seasons at the club. He was eventually loaned to Milan, but only managed to find success again when he returned to former club Atletico Madrid.


38) Luis Figo – Barcelona to Real Madrid (€60m, 2000)

Luis Figo, Bulent Akin

In July 2000, Luis Figo made one of the most controversial moves in football history when he left Barcelona to join hated rivals Real Madrid, smashing the world record for the highest transfer fee.

In his first season with Real he won the Ballon d’Or award, largely for his time at Barcelona, and upon his return to the Camp Nou, for the first Clasico of the season, he was met by a deafening chorus of boos and banners hung around the stadium reading ‘traitor’, ‘scum’ and ‘Judas’.

Figo’s move marked the beginning of the Galacticos era at Los Blancos, and he was later joined by stars such as Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham. Over the course of his career at Real he won two La Liga titles, two Spanish Supercups, the Champions League, a UEFA Supercup and the Intercontinental Cup, finally moving to Inter in 2005.


37) Naby Keita – RB Leipzig to Liverpool (€60m, 2018)

Naby Keita

​Liverpool identified RB Leipzig’s tough-tackling, dynamic midfielder ​Naby Keita as the player who could transform them into title contenders, and were even prepared to wait a year for his arrival after reaching an agreement in 2017.

The Reds have indeed become title challengers since Keita’s arrival, and he’s really starting to find his feet now – flourishing in the final weeks of the 2018/19 season.


36) Oscar – Chelsea to Shanghai SIPG (€60.3m, 2017)

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Chinese transfer fees are notoriously difficult to pin down, with estimates for Carlos Tevez’s move to Shanghai Shenhua in 2017 ranging between £12m and £72m depending on who you believe and how you calculate it.

Only the second Chinese transfer we can confirm in the top 50 is Oscar’s move to Shanghai SIPG in 2017. The Brazilian had slipped down the pecking order at Stamford Bridge and decided to take a big payday in the Far East, linking up with former Brazil teammate Hulk.

Unlike Tevez, Oscar didn’t let his standards drop and has taken advantage of the lower quality league to rack up some impressive statistics, with 25 goals and 41 assists in just two years.


35) Angel Di Maria – Manchester United to Paris Saint-Germain (€61.6m, 2015)

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After being deemed the worst signing of the season at Manchester United, Angel Di Maria completed a dramatic move to French champions Paris Saint-Germain in 2015.

He failed to board a flight to join the Red Devils in the United States, to which manager Louis van Gaal commented: “I have heard he is not on the plane. I cannot say anything. He was not on the plane.” One week later the transfer was officially announced, and Di Maria has been a PSG player ever since.


34) David Luiz – Chelsea to Paris Saint-Germain (€62.5m, 2014)

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In the summer of 2014, David Luiz became the most expensive defender in history – leaving Chelsea to join Paris Saint-Germain on a five-year contract.

The Brazilian international became a stalwart figure at the Parc des Princes, helping PSG win the domestic treble in both of his seasons at the club, before returning to former club Chelsea in 2016.


33) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – Borussia Dortmund to Arsenal (€63.75m, 2018)

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Sven Mislintat had been ​Arsenal’s head of recruitment for just two months when he secured one of their best signings in recent years, raiding his former club ​Borussia Dortmund for ​Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in January 2018.

The Gabonese international scored 10 goals in 13 league appearances up to the end of the season and has continued his prolific form into Unai Emery’s reign.

After years of treading water, this is the sort of signing Arsenal need to make more of if they want to become a force to be reckoned with again. Mislintat’s departure from the Emirates Stadium was a real blow in that regard.


32) Christian Pulisic – Borussia Dortmund to Chelsea (€64m, 2019)

Christian Pulisic

The first 2019 transfer on this list saw ​Chelsea pay £58m to sign Christian Pulisic from Borussia Dortmund, the highest transfer fee ever paid for a North American player by quite some distance.

At just 20 years of age, Pulisic is already vastly experienced with over 100 Dortmund appearances under his belt. However, he was allowed to leave the German side after slipping behind Jadon Sancho in the pecking order.

After Chelsea lost Eden Hazard to Real Madrid, they will hope that Pulisic can fill the void left behind. It will certainly be a lucrative transfer in a commercial sense, with Pulisic being the poster boy of football in the USA.


31) Edinson Cavani – Napoli to Paris Saint-Germain (€64.5m, 2013)

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Arriving at Paris Saint-Germain after they had just won their first league title in two decades, Edinson Cavani helped to establish Les Parisiens as the dominant force in French football. They have won 17 of the 20 domestic competitions they have entered in Cavani’s five years on board.

Throughout his PSG career, Cavani has never been the club’s poster boy, overshadowed first by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, then by Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. However, his consistency has never been in doubt as he has always scored at least 20 goals each season. 

In recent years he has been particularly lethal, outscoring both Neymar and Mbappe in the 2017/18 season, and despite injuries and fewer appearances he still managed to net 23 times in 2018/19.


30) Aymeric Laporte – Athletic to Manchester City (€65m, 2018) 

Aymeric Laporte

Athletic’s unique transfer policy allows them to command much higher fees for players than other clubs would be able to, but Manchester City fans will agree that Laporte was worth every penny paid.

Laporte joined City in January 2018 when they were already 12 points clear of their nearest rivals and played on and off until the end of the season. In 2018/19, he became City’s main defender, and there’s no questioning his place in the team nowadays.

Arguably his most important City performance came against Liverpool, when he deputised superbly at left back in a crucial victory for Guardiola’s side.


29) Kaka – AC Milan to Real Madrid (€65m, 2009)

Real Madrid's Brazilian midfielder Kaka

One of the best midfielders of his generation and a Ballon d’Or winner in 2007, a world record move to Real Madrid seemed like the natural step for Kaka when AC Milan’s status in European football began to slip in the late 2000s.

But like the Rossoneri, Kaka’s best years were behind him. Injuries disrupted his first two seasons at the Bernabeu, with Mesut Ozil taking his place in the side, and he also had a troubled relationship with Jose Mourinho.

The huge loss Real Madrid made when they sold Kaka back to Milan in 2013 means that this is regarded as one of the worst transfers of all time.


28) Riyad Mahrez – Leicester City to Manchester City (€67.8m, 2018)

Riyad Mahrez

How do you improve a squad which has just scored a record number of goals, won a record number of games and become the first side to surpass 100 points in the Premier League? Guardiola’s answer was to buy ​Riyad Mahrez from ​Leicester in the summer of 2018.

City had been after Mahrez for at least a year, but their approach had been rebuffed the previous summer and Leicester held firm the following January, despite Mahrez temporarily going on strike. The champions eventually got their man for €67.8m.

Despite ending the season with 12 goals and 12 assists in all competitions, Mahrez is yet to hit the heights which saw him named PFA Player of the Year during Leicester’s unlikely title triumph of 2015/16, and his penalty miss at Anfield in October will remain his most memorable moment ot the season.


27) Raheem Sterling – Liverpool to Manchester City (€69.1m, 2015)

Raheem Sterling

The talented youngster’s transfer from Liverpool to Manchester City in 2015 was the end product of a highly publicised contract dispute between Raheem Sterling and the Reds.

After his breakthrough at Anfield, Sterling was offered a contract extension which he refused to sign, to which manager Brendan Rodgers said: “In terms of Raheem I’m just saying what I think the club are offering. It’s an incredible deal for a young player.

“But we’re certainly not a club that is going to give way, way above what a player is worth at a certain time in their career.”

The rift between Sterling and Liverpool grew towards the end of the season, with the player and his agent giving unsanctioned interviews and Sterling missing two days of training due to ‘illness’.

The saga finally drew to a close when Manchester City made Sterling the most expensive English player in history, also breaking the record for the highest fee paid for a teenager.


26) Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Inter to Barcelona (€69.5m, 2009)

Barcelona's Swedish forward Zlatan Ibrah

A world class player, moving from Italy to Spain, for €69.5m, in 2009. Spanish football fans were having déjà vu when Barcelona signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic just three weeks after Real Madrid had bought Kaka, and the symmetry continued as this transfer was equally unsuccessful.

Ibrahimovic’s only season at the Camp Nou wasn’t that bad, as he scored 16 La Liga goals, but fans were scratching their heads as to why Samuel Eto’o – an equally brilliant striker – had been allowed to join Inter in part exchange.

Ibrahimovic resented having to share the limelight with Lionel Messi and accused Guardiola of being a coward after a Champions League defeat. “You bought a Ferrari, but you drive it like a Fiat,” Ibrahimovic said. He was written off at the end of the season, and sold to AC Milan.


25) Luka Jovic – Eintracht Frankfurt to Real Madrid (€70m, 2019)

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After a breakthrough season on loan at ​Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt, Luka Jovic completed a move to Real Madrid as part of Zinedine Zidane’s 2019 squad rejuvenation.

The Serbian striker will hope to replicate his form from the 2018/19 season which saw him score 27 goals from 48 appearances, helping Eintracht finish seventh in the Bundesliga and reach the semi-final of the Europa League.


24) Thomas Lemar – Monaco to Atletico Madrid (€70m, 2018)

Thomas Lemar

​It’s early days in the La Liga career of ​Thomas Lemar, but it’s already starting to look like ​Atletico Madrid may have paid well over the odds for the Frenchman when they signed him from Monaco last summer.

In 31 league appearances, Lemar has managed just two goals and three assists for Diego Simeone’s team, and Atletico fans are starting to fear that this might be Jackson Martinez all over again.

Simeone has pleaded patience, emphasising Lemar’s talent and insisting he will come good. He will need to do so quickly if Atletico are to stand any chance of competing with Barcelona and Real Madrid in La Liga.


23) Alisson Becker – Roma to Liverpool (€73m, 2018)

Alisson

Loris Karius’ disastrous performance in the 2018 Champions League final forced Jurgen Klopp to swallow his pride and dip into the transfer market for a world class goalkeeper. He put up the cash for Alisson Becker, Roma’s Brazilian shot-stopper, breaking Buffon’s long-standing record for the most expensive goalkeeper.

Alisson’s impact is reflected in Liverpool’s defensive record, which was the best in the Premier League in 2018/19. He has come to the fore with some memorable saves against Brighton, Chelsea, Burnley, and most notably Napoli, helping the Reds win the Champions League title.


22) Angel Di Maria – Real Madrid to Manchester United (€74.6m, 2014)

Angel Di Maria

Angel Di Maria had been named man of the match in the Champions League final as Real Madrid finally clinched La Decima in 2014, so it looked like a good piece of business when Manchester United broke their transfer record to sign the Argentine a few months later.

He made a promising start at Old Trafford, winning Manchester United’s player of the month award for September after two goals and two assists in four Premier League matches, including a sensational chipped finish against Leicester.

However, Di Maria’s form soon took a nose-dive and a costly red card against Arsenal in the FA Cup proved to be his final start for United as he was sold at the end of the season to Paris Saint-Germain for a loss of around £15m.


21) Kevin De Bruyne – Wolfsburg to Manchester City (€75m, 2015)

Kevin De Bruyne

Two years after Jose Mourinho decided that Kevin De Bruyne wasn’t good enough for the Premier League, Manuel Pellegrini brought him back to England, paying a hefty sum to sign the Belgian from Wolfsburg.

De Bruyne has been worth every penny spent, with his performances in the 2017/18 season affirming his status as one of the best players in the ​Premier League. He won the inaugural Playmaker Award for most assists and narrowly missed out on the PFA Player of the Year award to Mohamed Salah.

Injuries have restricted De Bruyne more recently, but if he can maintain his fitness then City have a good chance of winning every trophy available to them…every year.


20) Frenkie de Jong – Ajax to Barcelona (€75, 2019)

Sean Klaiber,Frenkie de Jong

After months of speculation, the Frenkie de Jong transfer saga finally came to an end in January 2019 as the Dutch midfielder agreed to join Barcelona at the end of the season.

De Jong has been compared to both Johan Cruyff and Franz Beckenbauer, which is not as ridiculous as it seems, given that he possesses a Cruyff-like ability to float past players despite being closer to Beckenbauer in terms of his position and tactical flexibility.

Producing consistent performances in the Eredivisie is one thing; doing it in La Liga is quite another. If De Jong can learn from Sergio Busquets and become the Spaniard’s successor, Barcelona will have a world class talent on their hands.


19) Zinedine Zidane – Juventus to Real Madrid (€77.5m, 2001)

Real Madrid's French Zinedine Zidane (L)

 In 2001 Zidane joined the Galacticos project at Real Madrid, becoming the most expensive player in the world at the time, playing at the club until his retirement in 2006.

The Frenchman, widely considered to be one of the best players in football history, left his mark in just his first season at the club – scoring the match-winning goal against Bayer Leverkusen in the 2002 Champions League final.

He went on to win the La Liga title with Los Blancos and was named FIFA World Player of the Year in 2003, as well as achieving international success with the French national team.

After retiring from active play, Zidane started his managerial career at Real, eventually replacing Rafa Benitez as the club’s manager in 2016. With Zidane at the helm, Los Blancos became the only team to win three consecutive ​Champions League titles.


18) Alvaro Morata – Real Madrid to Chelsea (€78.9m, 2017)

Alvaro Morata

Antonio Conte’s Chelsea downfall began when he decided to replace Diego Costa with Alvaro Morata in the summer of 2017. Costa had just scored 20 goals to help Chelsea win the Premier League title in 2016/17; Morata had never scored more than 15 in a league campaign.

Sure enough, Morata failed to have the expected impact. After a bright start, scoring six goals in his first six Premier League matches, he faded badly, hitting the target just five more times all season as Chelsea finished outside the top four and Conte was sacked.

Even the appointment of Maurizio Sarri couldn’t get the best out of Morata, who is now at Atletico Madrid on loan. If Los Rojiblancos want to make the move permanent they will be able to do so for a £15m loss on Chelsea’s original investment.


17) James Rodriguez – Monaco to Real Madrid (€80m, 2014)

James Rodriguez

Coming off the back of his performances at the 2014 World Cup, where he scored six goals and led Colombia to the quarter finals, ​James Rodriguez said it was his ‘life’s dream’ to play for Real Madrid. Los Blancos were happy to oblige, splashing out £63m on the Monaco star.

Rodriguez was certainly living the dream in his first season at the Bernabeu, with 17 goals and 18 assists making him Real’s third most productive player, behind only Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo. Alas, injuries meant that he couldn’t maintain his promising start.

Seeking to rejuvenate his career, Rodriguez joined Bayern Munich on loan in summer 2017 and excelled in his first year, but injuries have once again slowed his progress. Bayern have declined the opportunity to sign him on a permanent deal, and he is widely believed to be heading for a final exit from the Santiago Bernabeu in the summer.


16) Lucas Hernandez – Atletico Madrid to Bayern Munich (€80m, 2019)

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French World Cup winner Lucas Hernandez will join ​Bayern Munich from Atletico Madrid on July 1 for a huge €80m fee.

He can play at left back and centre half, and is set to be part of a Bayern overhaul which has also seen the likes of Benjamin Pavard and Jann-Fiete Arp join. There’s going to be more too, you can be sure of that.


15) Kepa Arrizabalaga – Athletic to Chelsea (€80m, 2018)

Kepa Arrizabalaga

Alisson was the world’s most expensive goalkeeper for less than three weeks last summer before he was replaced at the top of the list by Kepa Arrizabalaga, with Chelsea paying Athletic top dollar to replace Thibaut Courtois.

The commanding Basque shot-stopper has settled in well at Stamford Bridge, with his height and agility ensuring that Courtois has not been missed. He cemented his popularity with the Chelsea fans by saving a penalty in the shoot-out which booked their place in the EFL Cup final.

His most famous moment so far, however, has to be that time he refused to be substituted at Wembley against Manchester City.


14) Luis Suarez – Liverpool to Barcelona (€82.3m, 2014)

Luis Suarez

No price tag would have been enough for Liverpool to happily part with ​Luis Suarez, but they couldn’t stand in the way of his dream move to Barcelona, and he became damaged goods (even more so than before) after biting Giorgio Chiellini at the 2014 World Cup.

Liverpool’s title challenge in the 2013/14 season had been so dependant on the brilliance of Suarez that they crumbled without him, finishing sixth the following year and eighth the season after that. Not until signing Mohamed Salah did they fill the void Suarez had left behind.

At Barcelona, Suarez has proved why he is regarded as one of the best strikers in the world. He has scored 131 goals in 163 La Liga appearances and is the only player apart from Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to win the Pichichi Trophy in the last nine years.


13) Virgil van Dijk – Southampton to Liverpool (€84.5m, 2018)

Virgil van Dyke

Some people were sceptical when Liverpool smashed their transfer record to make Virgil van Dijk the world’s most expensive defender in January 2018, but 18 months later he is the most important piece of the jigsaw in the Reds’ title bid.

With the Dutchman at the back, Liverpool reached the Champions League final two years in a row, winning it the second time around. Their previously fragile defence is now the sturdiest in the Premier League, after years of committing unforced errors.

Rated by many as one of the world’s best centre backs, Van Dijk has shown that a good defender is worth his weight in gold. The likes of Kalidou Koulibaly, Milan Skriniar and Matthijs de Ligt could soon be changing hands for similar fees.


12) Romelu Lukaku – Everton to Manchester United (€84.8m, 2017)

Romelu Lukaku

​Romelu Lukaku can count himself unfortunate to have come in for so much criticism since joining Manchester United in 2017. He averaged nearly a goal every other game in his debut season, but was accused of not being mobile enough and only scoring against lesser sides.

With 27 goals in all competitions, his debut season was actually the most prolific of Lukaku’s career. It’s a little more difficult for him nowadays though, and he could find himself moved on again this summer as part of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s revamp at Old Trafford.


11) Neymar – Santos to Barcelona (€86.2m, 2013)

Neymar

Brazilian superstar Neymar made the step up to European football in 2013 when joined Barcelona in a highly complicated and controversial deal.

The striker was highly sought after when he broke onto the scene at Santos, with Real Madrid and Barcelona racing to get their hands on him. He eventually announced that he chose the Catalan side, and Barcelona confirmed that they had paid €57.1m for the star.

Several months later an investigation was opened into the transfer by the prosecutor’s office in Madrid, which revealed that the transfer had actually cost the club €86.2m, leading Barcelona and then-vice president Josep Maria Bartomeu to be charged with tax fraud. 

However, Neymar would go on to become the most expensive player in the world and Barcelona would make their investment back and then some.


10) Gonzalo Higuain – Napoli to Juventus (€90m, 2016)

Gonzalo Higuain

In their efforts to finally win that elusive Champions League title, ​Juventus raided Serie A rivals ​Napoli for ​Gonzalo Higuain in 2016. It was a fair price for a striker whose 36 goals the previous season was the highest total in Serie A since 1928/29.

Higuain didn’t quite scale those heights in Turin, though he did score 40 goals in 73 league appearances. As for the Champions League, Higuain scored five goals to help Juventus reach the final in 2016/17, but they came up short again, losing to Real Madrid in Cardiff.

After just two seasons at Juventus, Higuain was loaned out to Milan as part of the deal which brought Leonardo Bonucci back. Just six months later he was on the move again, joining Chelsea.


9) Cristiano Ronaldo – Manchester United to Real Madrid (€94m, 2009)

Cristiano Ronaldo

Nothing which costs €94m can be described as a bargain, but this will go down as one of the greatest transfers ever despite the extortionate price. ​Cristiano Ronaldo arrived at Real Madrid as one of the best players in the world and left having established himself as one of the best players of all time.

In nine seasons at the Bernabeu, Ronaldo scored a staggering 450 goals in 438 appearances, won the Ballon d’Or four times, and won every possible trophy at least twice, including four Champions League titles.

The rivalry between Ronaldo and Lionel Messi means that this era of La Liga will always be remembered as one of the greatest periods in football history.


8) Eden Hazard – Chelsea to Real Madrid (€100m + €40m in Add-Ons)

FBL-ESP-BEL-REAL MADRID

Known as one of the most exhausting and unsurprising transfer sagas in recent years, Eden Hazard completed his highly anticipated move to the Santiago Bernabeu from Chelsea in the summer of 2019.

Hazard made no secret of his desire to join Real Madrid since the 2018 World Cup, saying on several occasions that his dream was to play for Los Blancos and that he had already made up his mind to leave Chelsea.

The Blues managed to keep Hazard at the club in the summer of 2018 despite Real’s advances, and he went on to record the most prolific season of his career, scoring 21 goals and providing 17 assists in all competitions as Chelsea finished the season in third place and claimed the Europa League title.


7) Cristiano Ronaldo – Real Madrid to Juventus €100m, 2018)

Cristiano Ronaldo

Guess who’s back? It’s inevitably Cristiano Ronaldo. Juventus watched Real Madrid win three consecutive Champions League titles and decided they wouldn’t mind a piece of the action, and they were prepared to spend big to get it.

Of all the players on this list, Ronaldo was the oldest at the time of his transfer, but the 33-year-old appears ageless as he has taken to Serie A like a duck to water – with 21 goals and a Scudetto in his debut season.


6) Gareth Bale – Tottenham to Real Madrid (€100.8m, 2013)

Gareth Bale

Nothing says Real Madrid like breaking your own world transfer record, as Los Blancos did in 2013 when they signed Gareth Bale from Tottenham, slightly surpassing the fee paid for Ronaldo four years prior.

With his price tag naturally drawing comparisons to Ronaldo, Bale was under immediate pressure to succeed, but injuries marred his first six months. However, a sensational winner against Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final was the perfect way to ingratiate himself to his new fans.

Though Bale has struggled to maintain consistent popularity during his time in Spain, he has always had the ability to pop up with important goals in big matches, including the 2014 and 2018 Champions League finals.


5) Paul Pogba – Juventus to Manchester United (€105m, 2016)

Paul Pogba

Sir Alex Ferguson didn’t make many mistakes in his illustrious career, but allowing ​Paul Pogba to leave Manchester United for nothing in 2012 may be one of his biggest. Pogba’s attitude was called into question, but that did not seem to be a problem at Juventus as he became one of the best midfielders in Serie A.

Four years after letting him leave, Manchester United brought Pogba back to Old Trafford. He made a bright start before Ferguson’s old reservations about his attitude began to resurface, and his performances deteriorated in correlation with his relationship with Jose Mourinho. The Portuguese was replaced in late 2018, and after an initial period of brilliance from the Frenchman, form moved back to the norm.

Rarely has he done enough. But he still remains one of the world’s best.


4) Ousmane Dembele – Borussia Dortmund to Barcelona (€105m + €45m in Add-Ons, 2017)

Ousmane Dembele

Barcelona took a leap of faith when they spent over 100m to sign ​Ousmane Dembele from Borussia Dortmund in 2017. The Frenchman had only spent one season in the Bundesliga, but Barca scouts were convinced that this was a player who could become one of the world’s best.

He isn’t quite in that category yet, but after an injury-ravaged first season at the Camp Nou, Dembele is slowly proving that the faith in him was justified.

Statistics alone cannot convey how impressive Dembele has been, with some of his goals being truly mesmerising: a sensational strike against Sevilla, a sublime run and finish against PSV Eindhoven, and an exhibition of speed and strength against Tottenham, but the jury is still out.


3) Philippe Coutinho – Liverpool to Barcelona (€120m* + €40m in Add-Ons, 2018)

Philippe Coutinho

Philippe Coutinho joined Barcelona from Liverpool in January 2018 in search of trophies and acclaim, and he got what he desired – winning two league titles in a row. But he could only watch on as former club Liverpool lifted the big one in 2019, smashing Coutinho’s Barcelona en-route to the Champions League final itself.

Coutinho has struggled. So much so, in fact, that if you were to label this one of the worst transfers of all time, you’d actually have a strong case. Never before has so much money been put up and such disappointment followed.

That money*, you ask? Barca are reported to have paid an initial €120m to Liverpool, with a series of add ons paid down the line – coming after sealing Champions League qualification, winning the tournament itself and in blocks of appearances. The total could reach €160m if all add-ons are triggered.

Nevertheless, it’ll be an interesting summer in 2019, with Barcelona ready to cut their losses and Coutinho unsure of his own next steps.


2) Kylian Mbappe – Monaco to Paris Saint-Germain (€145m + €35m in Add-Ons, 2018)

Kylian Mbappe

Most of us weren’t alive the last time a teenager did what ​Kylian Mbappe did at the 2018 World Cup. Not since Pele in 1958 had a teenager scored twice in a World Cup match or scored in a World Cup final. He also became the youngest Frenchman ever to score at a World Cup.

For many people, Mbappe’s performances in Russia confirmed that he is the player who will succeed Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as the best in the world. No wonder PSG made him the world’s most expensive teenager in 2017, with the transfer made official a year later.

However, Mbappe may struggle to fulfil his full potential at PSG, who dominate domestically but are yet to go beyond the quarter finals of the Champions League. If they can’t get it right in the next few years, Mbappe may have to look elsewhere.

Rumour has it that ​he’s thinking about it already


1) Neymar – Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain (€222m, 2017)

Neymar Jr

​Neymar’s move from Barcelona to PSG in 2017 didn’t so much break the world transfer record as smash it into a million pieces. He became the first player to command a nine-figure sum, with the £198m fee being more than double the previous record of Paul Pogba.

Was it worth it? Neymar has been prolific in front of goal and PSG won the domestic treble in his first season. It was a stroll to the Ligue 1 title in 2018/19 too, but there’s still a sense it’s not gone to plan.

PSG need to see some significant progress in the Champions League, and Neymar was supposed to be the man to lead them to European glory. He was supposed to win the Ballon d’Or, too. But he’s further off that now than he’s ever been, and he may be out the door by September.


All transfer fees according to ​Goal.

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