Newcastle open talks with Philippe Coutinho as Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal register interest

Newcastle have reportedly begun negotiations with Barcelona star Philippe Coutinho and they lead a host of Premier League rivals who are all vying for his signature.

Coutinho is set to return to Barcelona at the end of the season after a 12-month loan spell at Bayern Munich.

The Brazilian did not do enough to convince the Bundesliga side to trigger the purchase clause in the contract.

Barcelona will turn to the Premier League in a bid to offload the midfielder this summer.

And Spanish publication Mundo Deportivo claim Newcastle are leading the pack and have already made contact with the 27-year-old.

Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham are all said to have registered their interest.

Magpies owner Mike Ashley is closing in on a £300million sale of the club to a group of wealthy Saudi Arabia investors led by crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.

If the takeover goes through then heavy investment is expected to help Newcastle challenge at the top of the table.

And the potential new owners have apparently identified former Liverpool playmaker Coutinho as the ideal star to take them to the next level.

It was thought a move to St James’ Park would only materialise if ex-Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino is brought in to replace Steve Bruce.

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But Mundo Deportivo claim Coutinho would still be open to joining Newcastle if Rafael Benitez returns to the helm, as has been suggested this week.

Meanwhile, Leicester have also been linked with a move for Coutinho as Brendan Rodgers managed the midfielder during their time together at Liverpool.

But the Northern Irishman ruled out a reunion with the Barca star.

“I’ve seen lots of speculation around young Phil,” Rodgers told the Eamonn and the Gaffers podcast.

“I don’t think… Philippe’s a wonderful player, a brilliant talent.

“But he would be someone who is way out of our price bracket.

“The market I feel is going to be very difficult this year, this coming summer.

“It’s one where we have discussions but there’s certainly nothing concrete at this stage.”

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Liverpool PULL PLUG on Timo Werner transfer and end talks with RB Leipzig striker

Liverpool have reportedly refused to pay Timo Werner’s £52million release clause and withdrawn from negotiations with RB Leipzig. The Reds were closing in on an agreement before the coronavirus outbreak.

But Liverpool’s finances have been hit hard by the lack of revenue in the last two months while matches have been postponed.

Werner has flirted with the prospect of moving to Anfield next summer and will have only done his hopes well by netting a hat-trick against Mainz at the weekend.

However, the Mirror claim Liverpool will stand firm and pay no more than £30m at the end of the season.

A similar stance is being undertook by the Bundesliga club as they will not drop their valuation below £50m.

That means talks have hit an impasse and Liverpool will no longer pursue the forward this year.

Transfers are expected to be heavily affected by the global pandemic as fees are set to drop in the next window.

Clubs will have much less money to spend given the lack of matches played over recent months.

However, Leipzig CEO Oliver Mintzlaff insists his side do not need to recoup any cash by flogging their top stars on the cheap.

“It won’t get any cheaper,” the chief said of Werner. “We will not sell a player below value if he is under contract for more than a year.

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“In general, we always ask the question: can we replace a player if we sell him for less than his market value?”

Meanwhile, Leipzig boss Julian Nagelsmann has recently admitted his star is considering walking away from the club.

“He is in a good mood, feels good and trains well,” Nagelsmann told Sport Bild.

“I do not have the impression that he is carrying a large cross with him. But he is a young guy who is sure to sit at home with his girlfriend and ponder whether he will stay or change.

“When the question is in the room, you are always a little bit somewhere else. It was no different for me than when in Hoffenheim, it was about whether I go away.

“It is more obvious with strikers, because then there are phases in which they do not score.”

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Sebastian Vettel tipped to cause Lewis Hamilton ‘commotion’ if one thing happens

Sebastian Vettel has been continuously linked with a switch to Mercedes for the 2021 F1 season after he announced he would be leaving Ferrari. With most other seats taken, Vettel could end up alongside Lewis Hamilton.

Mercedes have yet to extend Hamilton’s contract and there remain questions over what Valtteri Bottas will do next season.

Vettel has all the credentials needed to driver for the reigning world champions.

But Nick Heidfeld believes it would be unrealistic for the current Ferrari ace to end up at the Silver Arrows.

“It is a shame, but going to Mercedes is not realistic,” he told Sky in Germany.

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“It is interesting to hear that Toto Wolff analyses the qualities and not the nationality.

“A German team, of course, would like to have Vettel for marketing, but in my opinion Hamilton and Vettel will never be able to share a team.”

Heidfeld believes nobody would get anything out of Vettel and Hamilton teaming up at Mercedes.

He added: “No one would benefit from the signing of Vettel by Mercedes.

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“He would go to a team that is completely in the hands of Hamilton, who is also in top form.

“It is not ideal for Vettel, but it would not be good for Hamilton to have such a team-mate either.

“Mercedes wouldn’t want the two to be together either. That causes a lot of commotion and I just don’t see what’s going to happen.

“But we’ll have to wait and see what happens. I haven’t talked to Vettel, so I don’t know what he’s going to do.”

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Vettel is a four-time F1 world champion but there are a lack of options for him on the grid.

Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren and Racing Point all look set on their driver line-ups for next season.

There is a vacancy at Renault following the announcement Daniel Ricciardo will replace Carlos Sainz at McLaren with the Spaniard taking Vettel’s seat at Ferrari.

Fernando Alonso has been linked with a return to the sport with Renault his most likely option.

That could mean Vettel either joins Mercedes or is forced to leave the sport for 2021 and possible end his career altogether.

F1 is currently tentatively scheduled to start in July with two races at the Red Bull Ring in Austria.

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Chelsea ace Christian Pulisic sent Lukaku, De Bruyne, Salah message over Blues future

Chelsea winger Christian Pulisic could follow in the footsteps of Romelu Lukaku, Mohamed Salah and Kevin de Bruyne by walking away from Stamford Bridge in order to play consistent first-team football and continue his development. That’s the opinion of ex-USA international Herculez Gomez, who thinks Pulisic will have to fight for “everything” at Chelsea.

Pulisic had a mixed time during his first season at Stamford Bridge following his £57million move from Borussia Dortmund.

The young American made 16 appearances in the Premier League and had a decent spell in the starting XI before a muscle injury ended his campaign.

He was played primarily on either wing supporting lone striker Tammy Abraham, and popped up with four goals and two assists.

The Blues aren’t short of options out wide, and added to their attacking reinforcements by signing Hakim Ziyech from Ajax.

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And Gomez indicated that Pulisic could become the latest player to leave Chelsea after growing frustrated over a lack of playing time.

Lukaku, Salah and De Bruyne all left the club at an early age to get first-team football before becoming top players, and the ex-America striker hinted Pulisic could be next.

Speaking on ESPN FC, he said: “This is just life at a big club.

“Just to throw out some names you’ve got Lukaku, Salah, Kevin de Bruyne, Higuain, they’ve all made some sort of stop at Chelsea and then you’re gone.

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“If you can’t produce in that half-season or whatever they give you, that’s it and it’s on to the next. That’s life at a big club.

“If I’m Christian Pulisic, I’d never get comfortable, I have to fight for everything.”

However, ex-Chelsea player Craig Burley insisted that Pulisic will be a big part of Frank Lampard’s plans for next season.

He added: “I think they like him a lot and have seen glimpses.

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“But ultimately they want to see him over a full season.

“Frank Lampard didn’t pay a lot of money for him, it was the board who paid a lot of money for him. Lampard just inherited him.

“I think Lampard gave him ample opportunities after a slow start, and I think he saw glimpses of what Pulisic can do.

“I think Pulisic will play a big part next season, but he’ll have competition for places.”

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Man Utd impressed by transfer target who they want to ‘take pressure off’ Anthony Martial

Manchester United have been impressed by Raul Jimenez’s form in the Premier League and have him on a list of striker targets, according to transfer expert Duncan Castles. Wolves frontman Jimenez has scored 22 goals in 45 appearances in all competitions this season following his permanent move to Molineux. United are keen on bringing in a striker to reduce the pressure on Anthony Martial.

Martial has been United’s main centre-forward following the exit of Romelu Lukaku last summer.

Castles says Juventus are also keen on Jimenez but insists no offers have been made yet.

“Wolves will not, I’m told, stand in his way if they get an offer which meets their valuation of the player,” Castles said on the Transfer Window podcast.

“Jimenez is interested in that move [to Juventus], it’s not by any means the only club that have been checking on Jimenez’s availability and considering him as a signing for the next seasons.

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“As we told you on the podcast some time ago, Manchester United have been very impressed with the way he’s played and he is one of the options they’ve been looking at as a centre-forward to add into their squad and to take pressure off Anthony Martial for next season, to give them two options and give them a player who you’d have to say is a much better aerial prospect and a stronger, more physical presence than Martial, so to give them tactical options there.

“Nothing in terms of offers from either club at present and of course they’re dealing with Wolves who have very substantial financial backing behind them.”

Martial has scored 16 goals in all competitions for United this season.

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But former West Ham goalkeeper Shaka Hislop can see the Frenchman leaving Old Trafford if United bring in a replacement.

“I can see [Martial] departing Old Trafford,” Hislop told ESPN.

“At times he’s cut a forlorn figure and not looked happy with his football.

“The challenge is, I don’t see why Manchester United let him go right now.

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“Manchester United don’t have an awful lot of world-class talent in that dressing room and Martial is one of their brightest talents.

“So until you find a replacement for him, until you can pack that dressing room with players as good as or better than, I don’t see why you let him go.

“It makes sense for Martial to look for an exit right now, it just doesn’t make sense for Manchester United and they’re holding the cards.”

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What former Liverpool star Emre Can believes about James Milner

Former Liverpool midfielder Emre Can appears to still be in admiration for James Milner’s fitness levels.

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Can, 26, played alongside Milner for three seasons before quitting Anfield for Juventus on a free transfer in the summer of 2018.

While the two regularly competed for a place in Jurgen Klopp’s midfield, Milner’s versatility ensured he was a regular fixture in the team in a number of positions. The 34-year-old is most comfortable in central midfield but has filed in at full-back during his spell at Anfield.

One of the most outstanding features of Milner’s game is his engine – and he proved his super-human fitness levels by winning Liverpool’s pre-season fitness tests last summer.

Christian Falk, the head of football for Germany publication BILD, was recently chatting with Can, who now plays for Borussia Dortmund, about Milner.

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The journalist revealed the former Manchester City and Aston Villa star is his “favourite Liverpool player” because “he is purely about football”.

And Falk revealed to LFC Transfer Room: “Emre said to me that he thinks that Milner is still the fittest player in Liverpool.”

Milner has remained the top of the game in England for a number of years since breaking into the Leeds team at the age of 16. He is renowned for putting in the hard yards and recently offered a fascinating insight into his longevity.

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“Fortune is one [thing], I think you need that luck with injuries and things like that,” Milner told BBC Radio 5 Live. “But I’ve always tried to do whatever I can to give myself the best opportunities, whether that’s looking at diet and gym work; I did that as early as Leeds and Newcastle, the gym stuff, and that’s developed as well. I just try to push myself.

“Earlier in my career, maybe five or six years ago, people were saying ‘You’re going to have to start toning down your work in training and reducing your numbers and output in training to keep that longevity’ and I didn’t really agree with that.

“I thought, obviously I’m going to drop off at some point in terms of physical output and things like that, but surely if I push myself more, the further distance I’ve got to fall. If I do drop off then I’ll be in amongst the pack as opposed to dropping from the middle pack downwards. That’s what I’ve always tried to do.

“I’ve always tried to push myself, always tried to keep the young lads in place in terms of running and stuff like that. I’m sure I’ll get reeled in at some point but I’m hoping that’s not for a few years yet.”

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Chelsea expected to battle three Premier League rivals for in-demand Bournemouth star

Chelsea could be one of four high-profile Premier League clubs said to be monitoring Josh King ahead of a summer transfer. The Bournemouth striker has established himself in the top flight after a number of eye-catching seasons and is now being linked with a move up the table.

King is well-regarded in the Premier League, maintaining a strike-rate of nearly a goal every three games for the Cherries since moving to the Vitality Stadium in 2015.

And four of the traditional top-six clubs are interested in signing up the 28-year-old, according to Sky Sports.

Manchester United made a £20million bid for King on deadline day in January, although this was rejected so the Red Devils signed Odion Ighalo on loan from Shanghai Shenhua instead.

With Ighalo due to return to China when his loan expires, United are on the hunt for a new striker and it is logical that they could revisit their approach for King.

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Meanwhile, the report from Sky Sports points out that Chelsea are also on the lookout for attacking reinforcements this summer.

Manager Frank Lampard is hoping to sign a frontman who can ease the goalscoring burden on Tammy Abraham, with Moussa Dembele, Timo Werner and Victor Osimhen all linked.

Olivier Giroud has recently signed a 12-month extension on his contract at Stamford Bridge but Michy Batshuayi is expected to move on after failing to convince the Blues boss of his worth.

King could therefore fill the void left by the Belgian and would provide the west London club with vital attacking versatility.

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The Norwegian is renowned for his link-up play, often dovetailing well with England international Callum Wilson, and can also play out wide due to his impressive pace.

He has scored 48 times for Bournemouth in 163 appearances, while notching 17 goals in 46 international outings.

King has just one year left on his current contract and is expected to leave this summer as the Cherries cash in.

Meanwhile, Tottenham are searching for a back-up to Harry Kane as the north London outfit often struggle on the rare occasions when their captain is sidelined due to injury.

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Spurs could therefore be the third club monitoring King while Arsenal would complete the quartet, with Liverpool and Manchester City presumably happy with their attacking options.

King started his career in the Manchester United academy and was frustrated that a return to the club did not come to fruition earlier this year.

Speaking to Norwegian broadcaster TV2, he said: “How close it was I have no complete answer to.

“I have to watch what I say. I had some faith that it was going to happen.

“And it was a bit sensitive for me considering that I moved to England as a 16-year-old to achieve my dream and wanted to reach that goal at Manchester United.”

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Odion Ighalo may have played his last game for Man Utd as transfer concern emerges

Manchester United are reportedly on the brink of seeing Odion Ighalo exit the club after just eight games after failing to reach an agreement with Shanghai Shenhua on his loan deal.

Amid a striker crisis in January, United signed Ighalo from the Chinese Super League side on loan until the end of the season.

And in his time at Old Trafford, the Nigeria international has impressed, scoring four goals and providing experienced back-up.

However, due to the coronavirus pandemic forcing the Premier League to take an enforced break, Ighalo’s deal which was until the end of the season is now due to expire next week.

And according to the Daily Mail, attempts by United to extend the deal by another three months have been rebuffed by Shanghai, who want the striker back for the start of their season.

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As it stands, against his personal wishes, Ighalo will leave Manchester and return to China, missing the resumption of the Premier League.

The report says United have been paying £130,000 of Ighalo’s £400,000-a-week salary.

Losing Ighalo would leave United short in attack with just Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood as their only recognised forwards.

But Marcus Rashford has been able to start training again after originally being set to miss the second half of the season with a stress fracture in his back.

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Should Rashford get back to full fitness, he could play a pivotal role in United’s final games of the campaign.

Speaking earlier this month in a discussion with former British No 1 Andy Murray, Rashford spoke openly about feeling like he didn’t ‘belong’ with the first-team in the months before his stunning breakthrough in 2016 when he scored four goals in his first two games for United.

He said: “I remember a couple of months before my debut I was on the bench and at that moment I didn’t feel ready. I didn’t feel like I belonged in the first team.

“You know that’s why timing is so important. I wasn’t ready to play that game so I think the manager knew what he was doing at the time.

“Van Gaal is very experienced with young players and he wanted to wait for the right time.

“When I made my debut it just felt natural, it just felt like I was playing with my normal team-mates.“I just remember doing normal stuff like going to college about four days later.

“We had two games in three days and the next day after that I had college and there was press outside my college and I didn’t understand what the big fuss was all about.

“Because in my mind I was just going to college to finish what I started in that year.”

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David Luiz insists he will leave Arsenal soon as he reveals next destination

Arsenal star David Luiz insists he wants to end his career at Benfica hinting that he could be on his way out of the Emirates very soon. Luiz joined the Gunners from London rivals Chelsea last summer and signed a two-year contract with the north Londoners where he features regularly in the starting line-up.

However, an extension seems unlikely as the defender is now 33 years old and has made it clear that he would like to retire with former club Benfica.

Luiz broke into the scene during his four-year stint with the Portuguese giants and then moved to Chelsea in 2011 where he took his career to new heights.

The Brazil international enjoyed tremendous success throughout his two tenures at Stamford Bridge and also won trophies with Paris Saint-Germain in between.

The centre-back now remains loyal to Arsenal but his heart is set on putting an end to his career at the Estadio da Luz with a Benfica shirt on.

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Luiz told Benfica’s official website: “I always said that I would like to end my career at Benfica.

“In football everything changes, what is true today, tomorrow is a lie, but my feeling is not! I love Benfica.

“My dream is to step on the pitch of Estadio da Luz in their colours.

“For all that I lived and felt, for what Benfica is in my life and in my history, for everything, Benfica is bigger than any player.”

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This is not the first time Luiz makes such statements as he said earlier this year that he has never lost connection with Benfica.

The Brazilian said: “I never lost my connection with Benfica, I have that in my heart, everybody knows I want to come back.

“I want to wear the Benfica shirt again and feel that sensation. The day I come back to the Estadio da Luz it is going to be very special, one of the greatest feelings of my life.”

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta, though, wants Luiz to stay at the Emirates for next season and even seems keen to offer him an extension.

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Arteta insists he is “delighted” with his performances and the way he interacts with his team-mates on the pitch.

The Spaniard said: “He is a player that has won more trophies than anybody else in that dressing room.

“We have to use that in a very powerful way. I am very pleased with him. In the games he has played under me so far he has been terrific.

“‘His attitude in training, the way he communicates with his team-mates, his desire to still learn, it’s superb. I am delighted with him.”

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How Man Utd could line up if Jadon Sancho and two other Bundesliga stars join

Manchester United are hellbent on signing Jadon Sancho this summer, with the Borussia Dortmund star Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s top transfer target. However, the Red Devils also have interest in Erling Haaland and Kai Havertz, who are both in fine form. Express Sport now takes a look at how United could line up should they sensationally manage to sign all three.

Jadon Sancho

Manchester United have struggled with right wingers ever since Cristiano Ronaldo upped and left for Real Madrid in 2009.

Angel Di Maria, Alexis Sanchez and Memphis Depay have all toiled on the flank when played there – which is why the Red Devils want Sancho.

They feel the England international can fare better than the trio, deeming him a generational talent.

And that’s why, should he sign, he’d be deployed on the wing that has caused United so many problems over the years.

He’d represent a substantial upgrade on Daniel James, who has fared well since his move from Swansea in the summer.

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Erling Haaland

United still want to sign Haaland one day – despite the Norway international rejecting them in January.

And, should he join, the Red Devils would deploy him in the No 9 role.

Haaland is far deadlier than Anthony Martial, despite the France international enjoying a positive campaign at Old Trafford.

He’d be able to link up with Sancho, who he currently plays with at Dortmund.

And Haaland and Sancho would both be formidable alongside Marcus Rashford, who has taken his game to new heights this season.

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Kai Havertz

While United’s links to Havertz have admittedly been fleeting, Solskjaer is an admirer of the Bayer Leverkusen star.

And it’s easy to see why.

He’s already scored four times since the Bundesliga came back and has 10 goals to his name in the league, with five assists too.

If United were to snap up the Germany international he could take Bruno Fernandes’ place in the No 10 role.

The Portugal international could then drop deeper into midfield – taking Paul Pogba’s place with the midfielder of interest to Real Madrid and Juventus.

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Erling Haaland praised

Haaland didn’t score for Dortmund in their Bundesliga clash with Wolfsburg on Saturday – but he was praised by ESPN pundit Shaka Hislop nonetheless.

“Erling Haaland is unique in what he does,” he said.

“His size, his strength, his pace, but as a goalkeeper I think his biggest asset is how quickly he hits the ball, with no backlift, and how clean he hits it.

“When he puts his foot on the ball, you know it’ll be something special.

“As a goalkeeper you have to find your position a whole lot sooner than you would ordinarily.

“You have to be prepared for everything that comes, because he doesn’t mis-hit.”

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