Liverpool and Real Madrid join chase for Timo Werner while Barca are favourites for Atakan Akkaynak

David Cooper 12/09/2017
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn

The transfer window may not open again until January 1 2018 but that hasn’t put an end to plenty of speculation throughout Europe.

Here, we take a look at three big stories dominating the headlines.

Do you think any of these deals will get over the line in January?

Let us know your thoughts.

Get in touch via Twitter and Facebook.

TIMO WERNER

Real Madrid and Liverpool have joined the race to sign 21-year-old RB Leipzig forward Timo Werner, according to Sport 1 (via/TalkSport).

The Germany international has been impressive form for both club and country and is attracting the interest of Europe’s big hitters.

RATING: 6/10

SPOT360 VERDICT

Expect Werner’s name to be linked with numerous clubs in January because he will be one of the hottest properties around.

He’s just broken into Germany’s senior squad and provides them with something they’ve not had in a long time – pace.

However, Leipzig are tough negotiators as Liverpool have already found out with Naby Keita so any sale will be long drawn out.

ATAKAN AKKAYNAK

Barcelona have jumped to the front of the queue to sign highly-rated Germany youth international Atakan Akkaynak from Bayer Leverkusen.

According to the Daily Express, the 18-year-old has been linked to Chelsea and Roma but Barca have been monitoring his progress for over a year.

RATING: 7/10

SPORT360 VERDICT

Chelsea are apparently big admirers of Akkaynak but Barca are the favourites to sign him.

For the uninitiated, he’s a creative deep-lying playmaker and is considered one of the brightest talents in the Bundesliga.

Atakan Akkaynak playing for Germany U20s

Atakan Akkaynak playing for Germany U20s

Most popular

Related Tags

Related Sections

Jose Mourinho highlights key player who without him Man United's squad is weaker ahead of Champions League return

Simon Peach 12/09/2017
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn

Jose Mourinho downplayed Manchester United’s chances of winning the Champions League ahead of their long-awaited return to the competition.

Having last season missed out for just the second time in 22 years, a return to European football’s top table was secured by winning May’s Europa League final against Ajax.

Mourinho believes the Champions League is the “natural habitat” of the three-time European champions, who kick-off Group A against Basle at Old Trafford on Tuesday evening.

It will be United’s first match in the competition for 644 days and appears a great opportunity to hit the ground running, although the Portuguese knows quite a challenge lies in wait in this competition.

“I think motivation is very important and of course motivation is very high,” United boss Mourinho said.

“I think in the Champions League there are four or five teams with an incredible level of quality, of experience, of know-how and that’s what makes the difference.

“Apart from that, there are many teams in the Champions League that are very similar to teams in the Europa League.

“In fact, Feyenoord and Anderlecht, who we played them last year in the Europa League, were champions in their countries and now they are playing in the Champions League, so there are many teams with similar qualities.

“We have to try to qualify, we have to try to go to the last-16 and enjoy that special knockout phase with the best teams in Europe.”

While the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Juventus are sure to make life hard, few expect United to slip up in a group containing Basle, CSKA Moscow and Benfica.

Their impressive start to the Premier League has only furthered that belief, with Mourinho speaking of the confidence coursing through his squad ahead of Tuesday’s Group A opener.

The Portuguese is also boosted by the likely return of Marouane Fellaini – a divisive figure whose midfield presence was missed in Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Stoke.

The re-occurrence of a calf complaint sustained on international duty was behind his absence and appeared to grate on Mourinho as Fellaini played Belgium’s match against Greece despite the issue rearing its head beforehand.

The 29-year-old missed training on Sunday but returned to the group on Monday, when Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw and Ashley Young were among others in action on their return from long-term injuries.

“He’s a very important player for me – much more important than what you can imagine,” Mourinho said. “I feel weaker without Fellaini in my squad.

“It doesn’t matter if it is on the pitch or if it is on the bench, so if his conditions improved he will be selected because I need him. But in this moment I cannot say yet.”

David De Gea will start ahead of Sergio Romero in goal, while Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof will come in for suspended Phil Jones and Eric Bailly.

“It is not an opportunity, it is just normal,” Mourinho said of his centre-back changes. “I don’t think Bailly and Jones are better than them. I think they are the same level, they are just different players.

“Even if Jones and Bailly were not suspended, probably I would still play Lindelof and Smalling tomorrow because for me they are the same level. It is just a question of option.”

Provided by Press Association Sport

Most popular

Related Tags

Real Madrid remain Europe's strongest team despite making €75m profit after exits from Alvaro Morata and more

David Cooper 12/09/2017
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn

Such is Real Madrid’s confidence in creating more Champions League history that while others have spent hundreds of millions trying to catch up, the back-to-back European champions were happy to cash in.

Real made a profit of over €75million in the transfer market thanks to the departures of Alvaro Morata, James Rodriguez and Danilo.

Yet they remain very much the side to beat as the Champions League returns on Tuesday having ended a near three-decade long wait for a team to retain the trophy.

“We are the champions so everyone faces us with extra motivation,” warned former Real striker Emilio Butragueno, now the club’s director of institutional relations.

Madrid coped with that challenge admirably last season, dismissing Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and Juventus in the latter stages.

Their quest to become the first side since Bayern in the mid-seventies to win three in a row starts with a more modest test in the form of APOEL Nicosia at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday.

Tougher tasks lie in wait in the form of Borussia Dortmund and Tottenham Hotspur in Group H.

Dortmund even beat Madrid to top spot in the group stage last season. But Real have mastered the art of saving their best for when the competition really gets going for the contenders in the knockout stages in the new year.

“We have a stupendous squad but this is a competition that takes you to the limit in all aspects,” added Butragueno.

“You can have a big squad with all the resources, but when the moment of truth arrives you need to not have injuries, for your players to be in optimum form and have luck. There are so many factors.”

– Strength in depth –

Real’s strength in depth was used intelligently by coach Zinedine Zidane to win the club’s first La Liga and European Cup double for 59 years last season.

It is also why one of the richest clubs in the world didn’t feel the need to go wild in a hyper-inflated transfer market following Neymar’s world record €222million move to Paris Saint-Germain.

PSG front free of Edinson Cavani, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar

PSG front free of Edinson Cavani, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar

Instead, Real continued their policy of snapping up the best young talent in Spain in Theo Hernandez and Dani Ceballos to add to the likes of Isco and Marco Asensio.

Despite a slow start to their campaign in La Liga, Zidane already seems to be playing the long game this season.

The Frenchman rested a host of first-team regulars including Luka Modric, Isco and Gareth Bale on their return from international duty for a disappointing 1-1 draw against Levante on Saturday.

“I am not going to revolutionise what I want to do with this team due to one bad game,” Zidane insisted afterwards.

Real will be bolstered for the visit of the Cypriot champions in midweek by the return of Cristiano Ronaldo.

The World Player of the Year’s absence due to a five-game domestic ban for pushing a referee has exposed the one flaw in Real’s squad in a lack of back-up to Karim Benzema.

Having not replaced Morata, Bale was forced to act as an auxiliary striker against Levante after Benzema went off injured.

Yet even an enforced rest for Ronaldo could ultimately work in Real’s favour come the end of the campaign.

The Portuguese scored 10 goals from the quarter-finals on last season as Zidane’s rotation policy left him far fresher and freer of injuries than in previous years.

With a fit Ronaldo come the knockout stages, Real will remain the team to beat as the rest of Europe tries to end their hegemony.

Provided by AFP Sport

Most popular

Related Tags