Jude Bellingham is a key target in Man City’s midfield overhaul

Reigning Premier League champions Manchester City could face an overhaul in central midfield at the end of the season, which is why they are chasing one of the best young players in the world. ESPN’s Insider Notebook has the latest.

Pass: Al Nassr pitch preparation for Ronaldo | Prem clubs are waiting for the French star … while someone else can move | Spurs summer deal ready for loan | A trip to Nepal before the match against Real Madrid

Man City are set to challenge Liverpool and Real Madrid for Bellingham

Manchester City are planning to revamp their midfield this summer but will wait to hear whether Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan will stay before deciding on the level of investment required, sources have told ESPN.

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City are interested in signing Jude Bellingham from Borussia Dortmund, but will face competition from Premier League champions Liverpool and Real Madrid, with the England midfielder demanding a transfer fee in excess of £100m plus big add-ons. It is also acknowledged that if Silva and Gundogan leave, they will have to sign more than one new midfielder.

Gundogan, 32, is under contract at the Etihad Stadium until the end of the season and is expected to wait before deciding whether to move or extend his stay. And Silva has made no secret of his desire to leave the club after six years, and City will expect a hefty fee if Pep Guardiola decides to move, although he won’t stand in his way. Silva, 28, is under contract until 2025 and has attracted interest from Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain, with Camp Nou set to sign him last summer.

Speaking on Wednesday, City manager Guardiola said of Silva: “He is a key player, very important on and off the pitch. A guy who can talk is always a great conversation, you always learn his humanity, his vision for the club. He is an incredible player against top teams, incredible in crucial matches it is always there. Nothing has changed in the future, it depends on it.”

City signed Calvin Phillips from Leeds United for £45million in the summer, although the midfielder has made just four appearances so far this season.

Bellingham, 19, is seen as a top transfer target ahead of next season but it does not appear to be a simple deal given his future star status, although sources have told ESPN City that he has maintained a good relationship with Dortmund after signing both. Erling Haaland and Manuel Akanji. — Rob Dawson

Al Nassr rolls out the green carpet for Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo’s new Barcelona club, Al Nassr, is looking to ensure its stadium has a playing surface worthy of world football’s highest-paid player by hiring the same company used by Barcelona, ​​Real Madrid and the Association football team to build a new stadium. Stadium, sources told ESPN.

The Saudi club tore up the original 25,000-capacity Mrsool Park pitch earlier last month after bringing in England-based soccer pitch specialists SIS Pitches to lay new turf.

During the World Cup, Mrsool Park was used by Al Nassr to create a big screen fan park for fans to watch Saudi Arabia matches at Qatar 2022. As a result, the turf had to be repaired after the screen, seat and seats were opened. food stands were removed by the organizers.

– Ogden: What can await Ronaldo in Saudi Arabia

But with the Riyadh-based side in advanced talks over a free transfer with Ronaldo following the termination of his contract with Manchester United during the World Cup, Al Nassr decided to look for major football pitch suppliers and hired Barcelona-listed SIS. With Real and the FA as clients, as well as Argentine side River Plate and Scottish Premier League giants Celtic and Rangers – setting the stage in time for Ronaldo’s arrival.

However, Ronaldo will have to wait for his first appearance on the new Mrsool Park surface due to a two-match ban imposed by the FA for throwing a phone out of the hands of an Everton supporter that has yet to be cleaned up. As a result, his Al Nassr debut will come against Al-Ettifaq at Mrsool Park on January 22. — Mark Ogden.


1:44 a.m

Craig Burley is disappointed that Cristiano Ronaldo “followed the money” and signed for Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr.

Premier League clubs had to wait for Kolo Muani

Randal Kolo Muani has attracted interest from a host of Premier League clubs including Man United and Chelsea, sources have told ESPN, with the French striker keen to finish the season with Eintracht Frankfurt before assessing his options this summer.

The German club, who face Napoli in the last 16 of the Champions League, want to keep the 24-year-old for the rest of this campaign before allowing him to leave, possibly this summer, if a suitable offer is received. The Parisian, who arrived on a free transfer from Nantes last summer, will have a desirable transfer fee of €90m as he still has four years left on his contract and has no release clause, sources have told ESPN.

After Kolo Muani’s solid club season so far (22 appearances, eight goals and 10 assists in all competitions), an excellent World Cup has put some big clubs on notice. At 24, he’s a late bloomer, never coming through the academy and making his Ligue 1 debut just two years ago.

However, Kolo Muani is happy and settled in the Bundesliga and he prefers his next club to be in the same league. If Frankfurt return to the Champions League next season, they would not hesitate to stay, but Bayern Munich, who are still looking for a long-term replacement for Robert Lewandowski, and Borussia Dortmund, who are yet to sign Youssoufa Moukoko. There are also goalscoring fans at the end of the season. — Julian Lawrence

…but Thuram could be a target for top clubs

Marcus Thuram is another French Bundesliga side who is attracting a lot of interest from Premier League clubs, sources have told ESPN. With just six months left on his contract at Borussia Mönchengladbach, he is a very attractive proposition as a free agent in the summer and could even be available for a cut fee in January.

Premier League clubs such as “Arsenal”, “Chelsea”, “Manchester United”, “Newcastle” and “Aston Villa”, “Bavaria” of Germany and “Milan” of Italy are watching his progress carefully. There have been no offers for the 25-year-old so far and the player is reportedly happy to finish the season with Gladbach as he moves elsewhere.

The son of 1998 World Cup winner Lilian, Marcus impressed at the World Cup with France, particularly in the later stages, and has been outstanding in the first half of the season for Gladbach so far with 10 goals and 3 assists in 15 league appearances.

Thuram’s move from the left wing to a centre-forward role has paid off and he has been a big part of the club, who are eighth in the table despite an inconsistent season, but he is ready to take his game to a higher level at the club. higher ambitions. — Julian Lawrence

Spence should be sent off by Tottenham

Jed Spence will leave Tottenham Hotspur on loan this month in search of first-team football, sources have told ESPN.

The 22-year-old right-back signed from Middlesbrough for £19m last summer but has made just five substitute appearances in all competitions this season, clocking 32 minutes. While Spence is determined to make a successful move to north London, it is widely accepted that he needs to play more, with Spurs manager Antonio Conte preferring Matt Doherty and Emerson Royal in that defensive role.

– Olley: Conte needs total commitment to awkward Spurs alliance

Sources have told ESPN that Spence has attracted interest from at least four Premier League clubs, as well as German club Bayer Leverkusen, among various alternatives. However, no deal has been agreed with any clubs at the moment and Spence will assess his options with the January window open.

An injury to Doherty or Royal could prompt a rethink, but as things stand, Spurs are willing to allow Spence a temporary layoff.

Reports that Royal could leave the club this month are believed to be far from certain at this stage and a source close to Tottenham has dismissed speculation that the right-back is approaching Sporting CP. Pedro Porro will cost around £40m. — James Olley

Real Madrid is preparing to meet its rivals Nepal


1:05 a.m

Rodrigo’s superb goal gave Real Madrid a 1-0 lead over Cacereno in the Copa del Rey.

Cacereno, the manager of Copa del Rey rivals Real Madrid, admitted the team’s preparations ‘might not have been the best’ after returning from a 10,000-mile journey for two friendlies in Nepal, just three days before the club’s biggest game. the story.

Tuesday’s round of 16 tie ended in a 1-0 defeat as Rodrigo’s 69th-minute goal sent Madrid through to the last 16 (stream the replay on ESPN+ in the US), but it was an unusual pre-match route from a fourth-tier club.

The first squad left their home in Cáceres in the Extremadura region near the Spain-Portugal border on Christmas Day to fly to Nepal for friendlies against the country’s senior and under-21 teams. New Year’s Eve trip to Spain Meeting with the President of Nepal Bidhya Devi Bhandari was organized by the Lumbini Garden charity under the slogan “Football for Peace” as part of the agreement signed with Cacereno last November.

“It was too long,” Cacereno coach Julio Cobos Relevo said when asked to describe his trip to Nepal. “We left Madrid at 8 am and arrived in Nepal at 8 am [the next day], with a long stop in Doha… We went to play two friendlies for the sake of peace. It’s for charity, so we were happy to help.”

Lumbini Garden hopes to build the world’s tallest Buddha statue at 155 feet on the outskirts of Caceres as part of the largest Buddhist center in Western Europe.

“The games have been good for the club institutionally,” Kobos said. “I understand that it will bring income. From a sporting point of view, it came at a difficult time.” — Alex Kirkland

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