Xavi open to Ousmane Dembele staying at Barcelona

Barcelona boss Xavi said that it would “not be a problem” if Ousmane Dembele stayed at Camp Nou beyond the end of the 2021-22 campaign.

The France international’s contract with the Catalan giants is due to expire at the end of June, and he was strongly linked with a move away from the club in January.

As it stands, Dembele will leave Barcelona on a free transfer at the end of June, but he has recently been brought back into the fold by Xavi, and there have been suggestions that he could now sign a new contract with the club.

The 24-year-old has scored once and provided five assists in nine La Liga appearances this season, including a goal and two assists against Athletic Bilbao on Sunday night.

Xavi has now opened the door to the World Cup winner staying at Barcelona on a long-term basis, just one month after his career at the club had seemingly come to an end.

“It’s not a problem for me if he stays. He works very hard and that’s why I defend him. He’s capable of doing what he has done tonight (Sunday). I see a lot of options of where to play him. He can play on the left, right and score goals and provide key passes,” Xavi told reporters.

Manchester United, Juventus, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain are among the teams said to be interested in signing Dembele on a free transfer.

Arsenal ‘step up Patrik Schick interest’

Arsenal are reportedly contemplating whether to make an official approach for Bayer Leverkusen forward Patrik Schick during the summer transfer window.

With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang having already left the Gunners and doubts remaining over the futures of Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah, the Premier League outfit will almost certainly make at least one high-profile addition in attack ahead of 2022-23.

While a wide range of players have been linked with a switch to the Emirates Stadium, Jeunes Footeux says that Arsenal are monitoring the situation with Schick.

The Czech Republic international has starred in the Bundesliga this season, contributing 20 goals from as many appearances in Germany’s top flight.

The report adds that Leverkusen may not be prepared to sell their key player for anything less than €60m (£50.18m).

Although that could be in Arsenal’s price range, they may not be willing to commit to such an outlay on a frontman who turned 26 years of age last month.

Fabian Ruiz ‘wants Real Madrid move this summer’

Napoli midfielder Fabian Ruiz is reportedly keen to join Real Madrid during this summer’s transfer window.

The Spain international’s future has been the subject of much speculation in recent weeks, with Napoli believed to be open to selling him at the end of the 2021-22 campaign.

A number of clubs, including Manchester United, Barcelona, Newcastle United and Arsenal, have been credited with an interest in the midfielder, who has entered the final 18 months of his contract in Naples.

Real Madrid have also been strongly linked with the 25-year-old, and according to Mundo Deportivo, Ruiz wants to move to Los Blancos this summer over any other club.

The report claims that Napoli had initially been demanding €80m (£66.9m) for the Spaniard, but the asking price has now dropped to €50m (£41.8m), which is closer to Real Madrid’s valuation.

Ruiz played under the Spanish club’s head coach Carlo Ancelotti when the Italian was head coach of the Blues, and the 62-year-old is said to be keen for the deal to take place this summer.

The midfielder started his professional career at Real Betis, representing their first team on 60 occasions before moving to Napoli on a five-year contract in July 2018.

FIFA, UEFA suspend Russian clubs and national team

FIFA and UEFA have agreed to suspend all Russian clubs and the national team from participating in their competitions with immediate effect.

Since Russia president Vladimir Putin declared war on Ukraine, there have been widespread decisions made on all levels, including in the sporting world.

Many national teams, including Russia’s upcoming World Cup playoff opponents Poland, have stated that they will not participate in any fixture against the 2018 World Cup hosts.

On Sunday, FIFA failed to match the strength of message sent by many countries, instead only penalising Russia by saying that matches must take place on neutral venues and the national anthem and flags were not to be present.

However, 24 hours after that initial statement, FIFA and UEFA have responded by banning all Russian clubs and the national team for the foreseeable future.

A statement read: “Following the initial decisions adopted by the FIFA Council and the UEFA Executive Committee, which envisaged the adoption of additional measures, FIFA and UEFA have today decided together that all Russian teams, whether national representative teams or club teams, shall be suspended from participation in both FIFA and UEFA competitions until further notice.

“These decisions were adopted today by the Bureau of the FIFA Council and the Executive Committee of UEFA, respectively the highest decision-making bodies of both institutions on such urgent matters.

“Football is fully united here and in full solidarity with all the people affected in Ukraine. Both Presidents hope that the situation in Ukraine will improve significantly and rapidly so that football can again be a vector for unity and peace amongst people.”

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has allegedly agreed to a request from Ukraine to try to negotiate a “peaceful resolution” between the relevant parties, a move taken due to his previous history with Putin.

Gianluigi Buffon extends Parma contract until 2024

Legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has extended his contract with Parma until June 2024.

The 44-year-old re-signed for Parma last summer after leaving Juventus, securing a return to the club where he started his professional career back in 1995.

Buffon’s previous deal was due to expire in June 2023, but he has now committed himself to a further 12 months, meaning that he will be 46 by the time that the new agreement expires.

#Buffon2024 💪🏻🟡🔵#ForzaParma pic.twitter.com/cqNZ0NokmP

— Parma Calcio 1913 (@1913parmacalcio) February 28, 2022

“For me and my family, this is a wonderful day. I hope that the city and all fans will be happy. For me and my family, this is a wonderful day. I hope that the city and all fans will be happy,” Buffon told reporters at a press conference.

“My return to Parma was linked to the relationships and the deep bond I have always had with this city.

“If I hadn’t believed in what the president has in mind and in what we are doing, I would not have accepted this proposal. I am optimistic for the future of this club. It is a beautiful and exciting challenge for me.”

Meanwhile, Parma president Kyle Krause added: “In addition to leadership qualities, he has great human qualities. For Parma, his decision to continue with us is an honour.”

Buffon – capped on 176 occasions by Italy between 1997 and 2018 – has made 23 Serie B appearances during the 2021-22 campaign, conceding 23 times and keeping eight clean sheets in the process.

The goalkeeper recently told TUDN that he wants to play in Mexico or the United States before officially hanging up his gloves.

Tottenham Hotspur ‘leading race for Alex Scott’

Tottenham Hotspur are reportedly regarded as the frontrunners to sign Bristol City youngster Alex Scott in the summer.

Having overseen more departures than arrival during the January transfer window, Antonio Conte will likely be given licence to strengthen his squad later in 2022.

Although high-profile additions are more likely than prospects being brought to North London, it appears that the Premier League outfit are assessing their options in the Championship.

According to London World, Spurs are showing an interest in signing Scott, who has impressed in the second tier this campaign.

Despite being six months short of his 19th birthday, the teenager has been provided with 28 league appearances during 2021-22, contributing three goals and two assists.

West Ham United and Everton are also said to be monitoring the situation of a player who has a contract at Ashton Gate until 2025.

Man United interim boss Ralf Rangnick ‘has reservations over Cristiano Ronaldo’

Interim manager Ralf Rangnick is reportedly unconvinced that Cristiano Ronaldo should have a role at Manchester United next season.

Since returning to the club in August, the Portuguese has contributed 15 goals and three assists from his 29 appearances in the Premier League and Champions League.

However, the 37-year-old has not always made an impact down the middle of the attack, his presence arguably hindering United in certain departments.

According to Manchester Evening News, Rangnick has major reservations about keeping the Portuguese as his frontline striker during 2022-23.

The report suggests that a lack of alternative options is the main reason why Ronaldo has continued to lead the line, with Edinson Cavani spending periods out through injury and Marcus Rashford struggling for form.

While Ronaldo has a contract until 2023, an exit would likely be easy to facilitate should both parties agreed to a parting of the ways in the summer.

Joan Laporta wants Ousmane Dembele to remain at Barcelona

Barcelona president Joan Laporta has refused to shut the door on Ousmane Dembele penning a new contract at Camp Nou.

Having failed to agree fresh terms with the Catalan giants earlier this season, Dembele was made available for transfer in January as the Spanish outfit looked to move forward without him.

However, the Frenchman opted to remain at Barcelona, rather than move to one of many admirers, and the 24-year-old has since chipped in with a goal and three assists in La Liga.

Although a move elsewhere appears more likely at this stage, Laporta has acknowledged that he would like to retain the services of the attacker.

Speaking at the Mobile World Congress, Laporta said: “Dembele knows our offer and that we have always wanted him to stay. We hope that at the end of the season he will reconsider it.”

Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain are allegedly among the most likely destinations should Dembele take on a new challenge.

Leeds United appoint Jesse Marsch as new head coach

Leeds United have announced the appointment of Jesse Marsch as their new head coach, pending international clearance.

The 48-year-old American replaces Marcelo Bielsa, who was relieved of his duties on Sunday morning after nearly four years at Elland Road.

Marsch has put pen to paper on a contract running until June 2025 and will be in charge for Saturday’s Premier League fixture away at Leicester City.

Speaking on his appointment, Marsch said: “One of the things I love about this team right now is their commitment no matter how difficult the games have been, to play to the end, to fight for each other, to never stop, to give everything they have to each other at every moment.

“This mentality, this mindset to play for the fans, to fight for the fans, to fight for each other. This is what I love.

#LUFC can today announce the appointment of Jesse Marsch as our new head coach, pending international clearance

— Leeds United (@LUFC) February 28, 2022

“I just want to help take the torch to the next phase and understand that everything that’s been done, has laid an incredible foundation and coming in at this moment, I just want to try to do everything I can to help take the club into the next phase of our history.

“I think my style of play my aggressiveness, the desire I have for teams to be intensive and to run and to make things difficult for the opponent fits with what has been done here the last three-and-a half-years.

“It will be a big challenge to do it in a short period of time and make sure that we evolve in a way that can be successful for what the future may bring, but do it now.”

In a statement on the club’s official website, Leeds director of football Victor Orta said: “We are delighted to welcome Jesse to the club and excited for him to lead us into this new chapter.

“Jesse is someone we identified a number of years ago during his time at Red Bull Salzburg and we believe his philosophy and style of football aligns with that of the club and will suit the players very well.

“We have a long-term plan and firmly believe he can take Leeds United to the next level and are excited for what the future holds.”

Marsch began his managerial career with MLS side Montreal Impact, before being sounded out by the Red Bull franchise, moving to New York Red Bulls for three years and then winning two Austrian Bundesliga titles with Red Bull Salzburg between 2019 and 2021.

The American was then appointed head coach at German outfit RB Leipzig in July but he was sacked just six months into the role, after winning only seven of his 21 games across all competitions.

Liverpool team news: Injury, suspension list vs. Norwich City

Liverpool will aim to take a step towards another piece of domestic silverware when Norwich City travel to Anfield for the fifth round of the FA Cup on Wednesday night.

The Reds won a record ninth EFL Cup crown after a tense penalty shootout win over Chelsea on Sunday, with Kepa Arrizabalaga blazing over after 21 successful spot kicks.

Liverpool have already beaten Shrewsbury Town and Cardiff City to advance to round five of the FA Cup, which Jurgen Klopp is still yet to win since taking the reins at Anfield.

Here, Sports Mole rounds up all of Liverpool’s latest injury and suspension news ahead of the fifth-round clash.


Roberto Firmino

Roberto Firmino celebrates scoring for Liverpool against Inter Milan in February 2022

Status: Out
Type of injury: Muscle
Possible return date: Unknown

Diogo Jota was fit to return for the EFL Cup final, but Roberto Firmino is still struggling with his muscular problem and is not expected to recover in time to face Norwich.


Thiago Alcantara

Liverpool's Thiago Alcantara celebrates after the match, December 4, 2021

Status: Out
Type of injury: Knock
Possible return date: Unknown

Thiago Alcantara was scheduled to start at Wembley before being forced to pull out after sustaining a knock in the warm-up, and the Spaniard – who was in tears on the bench – will surely sit out the midweek contest too.


LIVERPOOL’S SUSPENSION LIST

Liverpool have no players suspended for this game.