Chelsea pull out of Ousmane Dembele race?

Chelsea have reportedly withdrawn from the running to sign Barcelona attacker Ousmane Dembele.

The Blues were one of several sides linked with a January swoop for the France international, whose existing contract at Camp Nou now has less than six months left to run.

The window shut with Dembele still on the books at Barcelona, but Thomas Tuchel has been tipped to try again in the summer in order to reunite with his former Borussia Dortmund protege.

However, AS reports that the Blues have now pulled out of the race to sign the 24-year-old due to the uncertainty over their summer situation ahead of Roman Abramovich‘s imminent departure.

The report adds that Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain also have no interest in signing Dembele as a free agent this summer, which could give Manchester United a free run at the attacker.

Barca boss Xavi has left the door open for Dembele to sign a new deal, though, with the attacker managing one goal and three assists in his last two La Liga appearances.

River Plate chief denies Edinson Cavani reports

River Plate football director Enzo Francescoli has denied reports linking his side with a summer move for Edinson Cavani.

The Manchester United attacker is due to become a free agent at the end of the season and is not expected to extend his stay at Old Trafford for another year.

A return to South America has understandably been mooted for Cavani, with reports claiming that River Plate had planned to sign the Uruguay international to replace Manchester City-bound Julian Alvarez.

However, Francescoli has now poured cold water over such rumours, telling Supermite: “I never spoke with Cavani. There were no negotiations at all.”

Cavani is thought to be holding out for a move to La Liga for the 2022-23 season, with the 35-year-old believing that he still has something to offer at the top level.

The former Paris Saint-Germain attacker has 19 goals and seven assists to his name from 54 games for Man United but has only made 15 appearances during an injury-hit 2021-22 campaign.

Lautaro Martinez agent rules out Inter Milan exit

The agent of Inter Milan striker Lautaro Martinez has insisted that there is “no possibility” of the Argentine heading for the San Siro exit door.

Martinez only penned a new deal with the Nerazzurri in October amid intense speculation surrounding his future, with his current contract not due to expire until 2026.

However, the likes of Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Atletico Madrid continue to be linked with a swoop for the 24-year-old ahead of the 2022-23 season.

Agent Alejandro Camano has effectively shot down the clubs’ hopes of a summer move, though, telling Calciomercato.it: “He is staying at Inter.

“Lautaro has a five-year contract with Inter, he feels like an Interista. Inter are the team in his heart. He feels like an extra fan on the pitch. His family is also very happy in Milan. I can say with certainty: there is no possibility that Lautaro will leave Inter. He cares so much about winning with this club.”

Martinez ended an eight-game Serie A goal drought with a hat-trick in Friday’s 5-0 thumping of Salernitana, and the striker now has 64 goals and 22 assists to boast from 168 games for the Italian champions.

Xavi: ‘It would be great to see Kylian Mbappe, Erling Braut Haaland in La Liga’

Barcelona boss Xavi has said that “it would be great” to see Kylian Mbappe and Erling Braut Haaland playing in Spain’s top flight next season.

Mbappe’s contract at Paris Saint-Germain is set to expire at the end of June, and Real Madrid are expected to sign the France international on a free transfer.

Haaland, meanwhile, will have a £67m release clause in his Borussia Dortmund deal this summer, and both Los Blancos and Barcelona are said to be in the mix for his signature.

Xavi has recently addressed suggestions that he met with the Norway international last week to discuss a possible switch to Camp Nou.

The Barcelona boss has called the duo “two great footballers” and has said that it would be a huge “positive” for La Liga if both players made the move to Spain ahead of the 2022-23 campaign.

“Mbappe and Haaland are two great footballers. It would be great to have them in La Liga, the league and the clubs they go to will get better. They will bring more fans to the stadium and it will be surely positive,” Xavi told reporters.

Barcelona have reportedly already accepted that Mbappe will be heading for Real Madrid, with PSG expected to fail in their attempts to keep hold of the France international.

Oliver Kahn: ‘Bayern Munich will soon discuss new deal with Robert Lewandowski’

Bayern Munich CEO Oliver Kahn has said that the Bundesliga champions are preparing to hold contract talks with “deserving players”, including Robert Lewandowski, over the next few weeks.

Lewandowski’s current deal at Allianz Arena is due to expire next June, and there remains a host of speculation surrounding his future.

Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City, Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Barcelona are all believed to be keen to sign the Poland international during this summer’s transfer window.

The 33-year-old recently said that he is “open to everything” when questioned on his future, with the forward believed to be seriously considering a move away from Bayern.

Kahn has said that the German giants are currently focusing on the business end of the 2022-23 campaign but will sit down with Lewandowski in the coming weeks to discuss a possible extension.

“We want to have talks with our deserving players in the spring – including Robert, of course. Now we are now entering a very decisive phase of the season,” Kahn told Sky Deutschland.

Lewandowski has scored 333 goals and registered 68 assists in 362 appearances for Bayern since joining the club from Borussia Dortmund in the summer of 2014.

Martin Braithwaite to leave Barcelona this summer?

Martin Braithwaite could reportedly leave Barcelona during this summer’s transfer window, with the attacker not thought to be in the long-term plans of head coach Xavi.

The 30-year-old started the season in impressive fashion for the Catalan giants, scoring twice and registering one assist in the 4-2 win over Real Sociedad on the opening weekend of the campaign.

Braithwaite picked up a knee injury against Getafe at the end of August, though, and was forced to undergo surgery, which kept him on the sidelines until January.

The Denmark international has been in the squad for Barcelona’s last five La Liga matches but has not played a single minute, with the attacker down the pecking order.

Braithwaite has a contract at Camp Nou until June 2024, but according to Mundo Deportivo, he is likely to be on the move when this summer’s transfer window opens for business.

The report claims that Barcelona are planning to further strengthen their attack in the upcoming market, which will make it even tougher for Braithwaite to secure regular action.

The Dane has scored 10 times and registered five assists in 57 appearances for his current side since making the move from Leganes in February 2020.

Lazio ‘keen on loan move for Chelsea’s Kepa Arrizabalaga’

Lazio are reportedly interested in signing Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga on loan.

The 27-year-old became the most expensive goalkeeper of all time when he completed a £72m move to the Blues from Athletic Bilbao in the summer of 2018.

However, the Spain international has largely struggled to make his mark at Stamford Bridge and is currently number two at the club behind Edouard Mendy.

Kepa still has more than three years left to run on his contract with Thomas Tuchel‘s side, but there is currently a host of speculation surrounding his future, with Newcastle United among the clubs said to be interested in signing him during this summer’s transfer window.

According to Corriere dello Sport, Lazio are also keen on the Spaniard, with the Italian club’s head coach Maurizio Sarri an admirer of his talents.

The report claims that the Eagles could struggle to afford Kepa on a permanent deal, so a loan move, which would see Chelsea pay half of his wages, is the most likely outcome.

The goalkeeper has made 15 appearances for the Blues during the 2021-22 campaign, with just four of those outings coming in the Premier League.

Thomas Tuchel proud of Chelsea’s “character” over past week

Thomas Tuchel has praised the resilience of his Chelsea squad after they ended a busy few days on and off the pitch with a 4-0 victory at Burnley in the Premier League.

On a week where Roman Abramovich has announced that he is selling the West Londoners, Chelsea have followed a comeback win over Luton Town in the FA Cup with a dominant second-half performance at Turf Moor.

Reece James and Christian Pulisic scored either side of a Kai Havertz double, but Tuchel preferred to heap praise on his team as a whole after the full-time whistle.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, Tuchel said: “It shows a lot of character and that’s why I am very proud.

“We played a very strong match at Wembley (against Liverpool), we lost. Three days later we accepted a whole different challenge in the FA Cup at Luton, we turned the game around after twice going behind. Then we come to Turf Moor three days later and do it again.

“We were very impressive and I am very happy because it shows the character and that the guys have what it takes to play for Chelsea. They are focussed and obviously we have an atmosphere where they can still focus on football, which is good.”

Chelsea now hold an eight-point advantage in the race for the Champions League places, as well as closing the gap to Premier League leaders Manchester City to 13 points.

Virgil van Dijk sets new Premier League record in West Ham United win

Liverpool‘s Virgil van Dijk has earned a place in the Premier League history books after the Reds’ 1-0 win over West Ham United at Anfield.

Jurgen Klopp‘s side closed the gap on leaders Manchester City back to three points as Sadio Mane tapped home from Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s ball on Merseyside.

Mane survived an incredibly close offside call to hand Liverpool all three points, and Van Dijk played the full 90 minutes during another unbeaten Anfield encounter.

In doing so, the Dutch defender played his 60th Premier League game for Liverpool at Anfield without defeat, setting a new record in the competition for most home appearances for a single club without losing.

Van Dijk previously shared the record of 59 with ex-Manchester United man Lee Sharpe, and the centre-back can boast a remarkable 52 wins and eight draws from his 60 Premier League home games for Liverpool.

Van Dijk enjoyed a strong game at the back for the Reds on Saturday, winning six of his seven aerial duels and posting a 90% pass accuracy.

Eddie Howe ‘keen for Sean Longstaff stay’

Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe has made it clear he wants Sean Longstaff to stay at the club.

The 24-year-old has featured 16 times in the Premier League this season, scoring once, but there has been speculation that he could be departing the club in the summer, when his contract expires.

“Yeah, from my side, every part of me wants him to stay, I love Sean, but I maybe have not displayed that with my team selections. That is only because it is a really strong area of the team, Bruno (Guimaraes) is not playing either,” Howe said.

“I really do rate him highly and I am desperate for him to get an opportunity and show everyone on a consistent basis what he can do because he is a top player.

“I would love him to stay and there is no part of me that wants to see him leave and I believe he has a long-term future here. That is Sean’s decision as well.”

Longstaff featured in Newcastle’s 2-1 victory against Brighton & Hove Albion as a substitute, and the club will be back in action on