Conte keen to keep Real Madrid target Hazard at Chelsea

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Antonio Conte wants both Belgian star duo playmaker Eden Hazard and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to remain with champions Chelsea despite speculation they would like to move to Spain.

Hazard’s father told a Belgian newspaper his son doesn’t wish to commit to a new contract – he still has over two years left on his present one – because of apparent interest from Spanish giants Real Madrid.

Courtois, who had a highly successful spell with Atletico Madrid, has said he would like to return to Spain one day especially as his children are being brought up in Madrid.

However, Conte, speaking on the eve of his side’s match with Stoke City, stonewalled on both counts saying in the case of 26-year-old Hazard whatever was said would not be revealed in public.

“This is a private conversation – between the club and the player, and the agent of the player,” said Conte.

“I’m proud to have him in my team, in my squad, and I’m very happy to work with him.

Eden Hazard 4

“He’s a really good guy and has a lot of space for improvement, to become one of the best players in the world.
But, I repeat, on this issue: this must be a private conversation between the player, the player’s agent and the club.”

The 48-year-old Italian – whose side are third in the table 16 points adrift of leaders Manchester City but just one behind a stumbling Manchester United – said he was not aware of the family situation regarding 25-year-old Courtois.

“Courtois has a contract, also for next season, with the club,” said Conte.

“We are talking about a fantastic goalkeeper, a really good guy, and I’m happy to work with him.

“I don’t know about this issue (surrounding Courtois’ family living in Spain).

“For sure, when you are in a great club and you trust in the project, you want to stay. You want to continue to play for this team. The family is not a problem.

“You are talking about two important players for us.

“It’s very important to try to improve your team, to strengthen your team, and not to sell the best players.”

Provided by AFP Sport

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£75m for Van Dijk a good buy for Liverpool, says Pep

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Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola believes Liverpool have spent well in paying £75 million for Virgil van Dijk, because he thinks high-quality players work out cheaper in the long run.

Guardiola was interested in signing Van Dijk from Southampton, but missed out after Liverpool agreed a deal on Wednesday, with the player making the move officially when the transfer window opens on January 1.

City’s manager has spent heavily on defenders himself since his arrival at the Etihad Stadium in July 2016.

Before the start of this season, he brought in Benjamin Mendy from Monaco in a deal that could be worth £52 million, Kyle Walker from Tottenham for an initial £45 million, and Danilo from Real Madrid for £26.5 million.

That came a year after he spent £47.5 million on signing England centre-back John Stones away from Everton.

“Liverpool took an amazing player,” said Guardiola.

“Van Dijk is an exceptional central defender, that’s a price we’ll see (again) in the future. Sometimes the cheaper players are more expensive than the expensive players. If he played six or seven years at a high level it would be cheap. If he played not well, more expensive.

“John Stones, when he came here, people said he was too expensive. Now he’s too cheap. It always depends on the value of what happens on the pitch.”

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Barcelona prepare January bids for Philippe Coutinho and Antoine Griezmann

David Cooper 29/12/2017
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The transfer window may not open for another three days but that hasn’t put an end to plenty of speculation throughout Europe.

Here, we take a look at the biggest stories dominating the headlines on Friday.

Will any of the following deals happen?

Let us know your thoughts.

Get in touch via Twitter and Facebook.

PHILIPPE COUTINHO AND ANTOINE GRIEZMANN

Barcelona are reportedly prepared to sell five players to fund the signings of Philippe Coutinho and Antoine Griezmann in 2018, according to AS.

The Catalan giants were relentless in their pursuit of Coutinho after losing Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain in August – and are widely expected to table another €120 million plus bid next year.

Ernesto Valverde’s side are expected to lure Griezmann to the Camp Nou, despite Manchester United also interesting in securing the Frenchman’s services.

SPORT360 RATING: 6/10

VERDICT

Coutinho is no doubt the best possible replacement available to help fill the gap left by Neymar and create a trident with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

With Griezmann showing flashes of class in recent weeks for Atletico Madrid, it is unlikely both players will be signed together due to their substantial transfer fees, with Coutinho looking the more likely option to put pen to paper in 2018.

LEON GORETZKA

Liverpool remain part of five clubs interested in signing Schalke star Leon Goretzka, according to Bild

The German publication suggests Jurgen Klopp’s side have an advantage over other potential suitors due to his friend Joel Matip being at Anfield.

Despite widespread reports that Bayern have already secured a deal with Goretzka – who is out of contract at the end of season – Barcelona, Manchester United and Juventus are ready to nip in and agree a deal with the German international.

SPORT360 RATING: 6/10

VERDICT

Goretzka is one of the stars of German football after his stunning displays for Joachim Low’s side in the Confederations Cup during the summer.

With Bayern Munich considered front runners to sign him, the 22-year-old could opt to pursue a new challenge in the Premier League instead as Liverpool look for a midfielder capable of pulling the strings for years to come.

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