Liverpool target Virgil van Dijk to be reintegrated back into Southampton first-team squad

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Virgil Van Dijk

Liverpool are still closely following Southampton star Virgil van Dijk – the man who remains a top summer target for the Merseysiders.

According to the Daily Telegraph, the Dutch star – who was left back at the club’s Staplewood training ground by manager Mauricio Pellegrino after he was deemed to not be in the right frame of mind to travel to France for their pre-season camp, has now been told he has to stay at St Mary’s Stadium next term.

The Saints want to keep the 26-year-old centre-back and are apparently ready to bring him back into the first-team frame, but Van Dijk is still hopeful of forcing a move away from the Premier League side.

Despite having a contract until 2022, Van Dijk told the South Coast club earlier this month he wanted to leave and Liverpool – who were forced to apologise to Saints after alleged tapping-up of the defender – are still confident they can land him.

Although Southampton are insistent no major sales will be made this summer, Manchester City are also waiting in the wings for the former Celtic man.

Saints hierarchy are set to meet with the defender upon returning from France in the coming days.

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PSG to pay Barcelona €220m for Neymar, rating the most coveted stars with a release clause

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Reports linking Neymar with a move to Paris Saint-Germain this summer continues to gather pace.

The Brazilian’s bust-up with Nelson Semedo during a Barcelona training session on Friday only added fuel to the fire.

Footage shows Neymar in a heated confrontation with the club’s new right-back at the end of which the forward stormed off the pitch angrily.

PSG are reportedly willing to trigger his €220 million release clause should the 25-year-old decide to join them.

In light of the ongoing debate over whether or not he is worth that fee, here’s a look at his release clause along with four others which may be worth triggering in the near future.

NEYMAR | BARCELONA | €220M

If the transfer does go through, Neymar’s fee would destroy the €105 million Manchester United signed Paul Pogba for last summer, which still stands as the world record. At only 25 though, the Brazilian could easily go on to justify PSG’s investment.

After making his mark at Barcelona, he’s primed to take on a leading role, one that may not be forthcoming for a couple of years yet at the Camp Nou with Lionel Messi still maintaining his extraordinary standards.

Despite concerns over the lack of competition in Ligue 1, which could adversely affect his bid for a first Ballon d’Or, it’s the Champions League and World Cup where Neymar will be making his case to be crowned the world’s best player.

If he goes on to win another Champions League at Barcelona, it’s one more medal for his collection and another European honour for the club. But if he can do it in Paris then, never mind being Messi’s heir, he’d be exalted as PSG’s messiah, the deliverer of the elusive ‘Big Ears’ trophy.

In terms of market potential, there are few players in world football who could become a bigger brand than the Brazilian. PSG need a leader, a fresh face to usher in a new era.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic propelled them to supremacy in the French league and made them relevant on the continental stage, now Neymar could take them to the next level and help them conquer it.

Rating: 8/10

Neymar

Neymar

SAUL NIGUEZ | ATLETICO MADRID | €150M

Saul Niguez is one of the most sought after young midfielders in Europe and in a couple of years, his €150 million release clause could seem like a bargain if he pushes on. However, he’s only had two good seasons and a phenomenal European U-21 Championship with Spain.

It’s a huge sum for a 22-year-old only now entering his element. He’s one who seems certain to go on to bigger and better things but until his match-winning displays with the U-21s this summer and a few great goals for Atletico last season, he wasn’t one of the bigger names emerging in Europe.

He is only now starting to realise his popularity and it will be a while yet before he’s someone leading brands will flock to.

At the moment, his release clause is well over the odds, a clear ploy by the club to hold on to him for the next couple of years at least.

Rating: 5/10

Saul Niguez

Saul Niguez

ANTOINE GRIEZMANN | ATLETICO MADRID | €100M

At the start of the summer, Antoine Griezmann seemed destined for that iconic No7 shirt that’s been left vacant at Manchester United since Memphis Depay’s departure in January.

While Atletico’s transfer ban compelled the Frenchman to remain at the club in their hour of need, he could still wind up being the proud owner of that shirt at Old Trafford in the future.

Despite signing a new contract with the La Liga outfit this summer, his release clause has crucially remained the same at €100 million. Apart from earning higher wages this season, Griezmann’s deal with Atletico hasn’t changed all that much.

Like Neymar, Griezmann is also a high-profile player and would be an outstanding marquee signing for United. Just a year older than the Brazilian, he is regarded as one of the stars capable of securing a Ballon d’Or title once the Messi-Ronaldo duopoly finally comes to an end.

United were always going to trigger his release clause this summer and should Neymar’s be activated by PSG, the €100 million to prise Griezmann away from Atletico next year will seem like a bargain.

Rating – 9/10

Antoine Griezmann

Antoine Griezmann

ANDREA BELOTTI | TORINO | €100M

Andrea Belotti is a very capable player and definitely one who could become a top striker. He’s shown maturity beyond his years over the last Serie A campaign, plundering 26 goals and leading Torino to a top-half finish.

He has all the makings of a fine forward while his physicality, work ethic and goal-poaching ability serve as his prime attributes. It’s no wonder the 23-year-old has been linked to the likes of United, Chelsea and most recently, AC Milan this summer.

However, it’s safe to say that Torino were being a little unrealistic by reportedly holding out for his €100 million release clause when interest in their leading man was at its peak. Either that, or it was a purposeful effort to discourage clubs from signing him.

One prolific season in the top flight hardly justifies a fee of that magnitude. He’s only just burst onto the scene and has no experience in European club football. With nine international appearances to his name, he’s starting to rise to prominence but will have to deliver again next season before clubs even consider meeting his release clause.

Rating – 4/10

Andrea Belotti

Andrea Belotti

GIANLUIGI DONNARUMMA | AC MILAN | €70M

A €70 million fee would make Gianluigi Donnarumma the most expensive goalkeeper of all-time. The Italian was the subject of much transfer speculation this summer with every club from Real Madrid to Juventus vying for his signature after he rejected a new contract from AC Milan offering him £80,000 a week.

Once his agent Mino Raiola spun his web though, he wound up staying at the club with a new four-year deal earning over £200,000 a week, while his older brother was handed a contract at Milan as well.

Arguably the best part of the new deal though is that release clause. Raiola initially wanted it set at €40 million while Milan were willing to agree to €100 million. If Donnarumma goes on to be half the keeper people think he will over the next season or so, €70 million will be more than reasonable given his age.

Don’t be surprised if he makes a move as early as next season. His fee is certainly well within the means of Europe’s top clubs and represents a great investment.

Rating – 8/10

Gianluigi Donnarumma

Gianluigi Donnarumma

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Arsenal striker Lucas Perez closes in on Deportivo La Coruna return

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Lucas Perez could be edging closer to the Arsenal exit door after his agent claimed former club Deportivo La Coruna have tabled a bid for the forward.

The 28-year-old moved to the Emirates Stadium from Spain last August for a fee reported to be in the region of £17million.

However, Perez has found his chances severely limited, starting just twice in the Premier League and making nine starts in total.

The former Dynamo Kiev frontman suffered a thigh injury in March, but even when he returned to full fitness he failed to make a single match-day squad, before being named as an unused substitute for the FA Cup final win over Chelsea.

That means his last appearance came off the bench in the sixth-round FA Cup win over non-league Lincoln on March 11.

Perez was expected to leave this summer even before the arrival of club-record signing Alexandre Lacazette, who also took the number nine jersey from the Spaniard.

Perez has always performed when called upon

Perez has always performed when called upon

Now Perez’s agent, Rodrigo Fernandez Lovelle, has told Press Association Sport that Deportivo have made an offer to take his client back to the Riazor less than 12 months after his departure, as the uncapped striker targets an international call-up.

“I’m here to see the Emirates Cup and to be with Lucas,” Lovelle said of his arrival in London.

“We have talked to everyone. Arsenal know we want to go, that there are no opportunities here, and within a year there is a World Cup. Would you not be angry and sad and upset if you had your squad number taken without being asked?”

The offer from Deportivo is believed to be worth more than the reported nine million euros (£8.1m) that LaLiga rivals Sevilla paid Manchester City for Nolito, with Lovelle insisting Perez was offered plenty more play-time after signing in 2016.

“Deportivo made an offer a week ago. It is a permanent deal and worth more than Nolito’s move to Sevilla,” he said. “Of course (he was told he would play more).”

“Lucas signed for Arsenal and was the happiest person in the world and with all of his dreams to fulfil. We have seen that every time he played he did well, but after every time he got fewer and fewer opportunities.”

Gunners boss Arsene Wenger spoke of Perez’s situation towards the end of last season while his own future at the club was up in the air.

The Frenchman has since signed a new two-year deal but looks set to allow Perez to leave despite his wishes to keep him in north London.

“If I am the manager I would love to keep him but we have to sit down and see if he has a realistic chance to play,” he said in May.

“He’s a top quality striker but I couldn’t give him the games he wants and deserves, I confess that. I feel a bit sorry for him.”

Provided by Press Association

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