Ismaila Sarr on Liverpool speculation: Everyone would love to play there

Ismaila Sarr says any player would be interested in playing for Liverpool and wants to join a team challenging for silverware should he leave Watford.

The 22-year-old has been linked with a move to the Premier League champions following Watford’s relegation to the Championship.

He scored five top-flight goals in the 2019-20 campaign, including a brace in his side’s shock 3-0 win over Liverpool in February, and set up four more.

But while the Senegal international is open to a move to Anfield, he is not actively seeking a transfer from Watford during the close season.

“Liverpool are a really great team, everyone would love to play there,” he told Senegalese publication Sans Limites.

“They won the Premier League this year and the Champions League last year, but also there are great teams in the English league. 

“Frankly, I have yet to make a choice. If that were to happen, I just wish they are a good team. At the moment, there are only guesses.”

He added: “I still have years left on my contract with Watford; another four years.

“If Watford want me to stay, I’ll play in the Championship. A departure depends on them as well as me. This is normal.

“Personally, our relegation hurt me a lot. I didn’t think we would come to this. I told myself that we had to do everything not to go down to the Championship.”

Asked if he would aim for a higher level than Watford if he moves on in the coming weeks, Sarr said: “Yes, of course, everyone who works is looking for advancement. 

“Maybe if Watford frees me one day I could go and play for a bigger team. Go and showcase my talent elsewhere and then win trophies.”

Sancho: I love playing for Borussia Dortmund

Jadon Sancho says he “loves” playing with Borussia Dortmund’s current crop of players after his side cruised to a convincing 6-0 friendly win over Rheindorf Altach on Wednesday.

Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc declared earlier this week that Manchester United target Sancho will remain at the German club for the 2020-21 campaign.

England international Sancho, 20, is part of BVB’s training camp in Switzerland and played 45 minutes against Austrian side Altach in their opening pre-season friendly.

Lucien Favre fielded plenty of fresh faces at Stadion Schnabelholz and Sancho, into his fourth season at senior level, enjoyed playing with the next generation of young talent. 

“I love playing with this lot,” he told BVB-TV. “It is a special bunch. We’ve got some special young players coming up. I am really happy to share the pitch with them and guide them.

“I was once in their shoes, playing with the seniors. I am happy for them.”

Fellow Englishman Jude Bellingham made his first appearance for Dortmund since joining from Birmingham City.

The €25million signing set up goals for Gio Reyna and Erling Haaland and was pleased with his introduction to life with the German giants.

“I loved every minute of it. It was a great first few minutes with the guys on the pitch,” he said. “I really enjoyed it. The guys are so good, they made it easy for me. 

“They played very well, even though it was the first game after the break. I am very happy to be part of this team.”

Haaland also registered a penalty while fellow senior pros Thorgan Hazard, Emre Can and Julian Brandt were on target in the final 15 minutes.

But it was Bellingham who was singled out for special praise by Favre after his impressive debut display.

“Jude Bellingham was good. He has to play in front of the defence,” he said. “It’s not easy when you’re 17. He was involved in almost all of the goals. 

“He moved forward at the right moments. This is important. He feels when he has to leave his position and has done well. 

“It’s important that we have midfielders who can speed up the game and make the final pass.”

Atalanta 1-2 Paris Saint-Germain: Choupo-Moting completes stunning late comeback

Paris Saint-Germain produced a stunning late turnaround to beat Atalanta 2-1 and reach the Champions League semi-finals for the first time since 1995.

Mario Pasalic’s first-half strike had looked set to settle a contest in Lisbon that will be remembered for a series of first-half misses from Neymar, the worst of which came when through on goal in the third minute.

Thomas Tuchel’s side dominated large spells but looked short of sharpness after playing few games in the past five months, even following Kylian Mbappe’s introduction from the bench after he shook off an ankle injury.

However, Marquinhos prodded home a fortuitous equaliser in the 90th minute before Neymar and Mbappe combined to set up Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting to become the unlikely hero and break Atalanta hearts.

Keylor Navas saved from Alejandro Gomez but it was Neymar who missed the best of the early chances, combining brilliantly with Mauro Icardi only to skew a finish well wide with the goal at his mercy. 

Navas then produced two outstanding stops to keep out headers from Hans Hateboer and Mattia Caldara, although the latter had been in an offside position. 

Neymar created another opening only to fail to take advantage, but Pasalic made no mistake 27 minutes in, curling a first-time finish past Navas after the ball deflected into his path off Duvan Zapata. 

Neymar had become the only PSG player looking likely to score and yet was the reason they went into half-time behind, the Brazil star dancing his way through and rifling wide and then blazing over after an errant backpass from Hateboer. 

Berat Djmisiti flashed a shot wide following a set-piece before Tuchel turned to Mbappe with just over half an hour remaining and then threw on Julian Draxler as desperation grew. 

Mbappe drilled a shot straight at Marco Sportiello and Neymar did likewise after another mazy run, and a brilliant challenge from Jose Luis Palomino denied Mbappe from close range. 

Just as Atalanta seemed to have done enough for another famous victory, Neymar turned a deep cross into Marquinhos’ path and he finished via the knee of Caldara. 

And 149 seconds later, Neymar released Mbappe into the area, the France striker drilled the ball across the box and Choupo-Moting slid in to send PSG into the last four to face RB Leipzig or Atletico Madrid.

 

What does it mean? Tuchel saved by magic touch of an ex-Potter  

League success was not enough to spare Maurizio Sarri the sack after Juventus were knocked out by Lyon, and Tuchel was likely facing a similar fate as the clock struck the 90th minute. 

Credit must be given to his players, who battled on until those crucial late chances came – and few would have thought it would be former Stoke City man Choupo-Moting to provide the killer touch. 

Atalanta will feel deflated, having played so well throughout the season during their first visit to Europe’s top table. 

Neymar illuminates… 

In the first half in particular, Neymar was dazzling at times. Atalanta had a set-up designed to limit his room to operate and yet he waltzed through challenges as though in a video game. 

He had 112 touches in the match, created four chances, contested 33 duels and attempted 50 passes in the Atalanta half – and played a key role in both goals. 

…and infuriates 

Those misses! 

Neymar’s wayward first-half finishing looked set to go down in infamy – the first one had Mbappe watching on in disbelief – and PSG almost paid the price. 

What’s next? 

PSG go through to face either RB Leipzig or Atletico Madrid next Tuesday.

Simeone: Liverpool victory counts for nothing against RB Leipzig

Diego Simeone says Atletico Madrid’s famous victory over Liverpool will count for nothing when they face RB Leipzig for a place in the Champions League semi-finals.

The Spanish side knocked out the holders with a 4-2 aggregate victory after extra-time in the last round and have been handed a favourable tie against last-eight debutants Leipzig.

However, five months have passed since the second-leg triumph at Anfield and Simeone insists that match will have little relevance on what happens in Lisbon on Thursday.

“That win is not a reference. Many months have gone and the enthusiasm died down during our time in quarantine,” he said at a news conference on Wednesday.

“The Liverpool game will remain a part of our history and was very important for Atletico de Madrid, but it was very long ago and another path begins tomorrow.”

Leipzig, led by impressive young coach Julian Nagelsmann, finished third in the Bundesliga this term and saw off Tottenham 4-0 in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Nagelsmann said on Tuesday he is eager to avoid a touchline confrontation with fiery Simeone but the Atleti boss chose not to directly reply to those comments.

“I do not respond to opinions of colleagues. I have nothing to comment,” he said. “Tomorrow we play a very important game, against a young coach who is doing a fantastic job.

“They play very well and try to get the ball forward. They’re a great team and the numbers show it. They finished third in Germany and have won the same number of games as us.

“I have a lot of respect for them and know that it winning is not just important but the only thing that there is.”

Influential attacker Angel Correa and Sime Vrsaljko are not part of Atleti’s squad for the one-legged tie with Leipzig after returning positive coronavirus tests.

But while Simeone is ruing the loss of a couple of players, he has his eyes firmly set on a third final appearance in six years with Atletico.

“Angel is important to us and being without Sime, who has fought hard to be back, also hurts,”  he said.

“We have lost two very important men from the heart of the squad, but we hope to have them later and we have to move on. We have to adapt to the circumstances.”

Southampton sign defender Salisu from Real Valladolid

Southampton have completed the signing of centre-back Mohammed Salisu from Real Valladolid for a reported £10.9million (€12m).

The 21-year-old, who made 32 appearances for Valladolid in all competitions in 2019-20, has signed a four-year deal at St Mary’s Stadium.

Salisu is Southampton’s second signing of the close season following the arrival of Kyle Walker-Peters from Tottenham on Tuesday.

Manchester United, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid were all linked with the highly rated defender, but he is pleased to have joined Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side.

“It is a very good feeling to be a Southampton player. I am very happy to be part of the club and I am looking forward to starting here,” Salisu said in a Southampton statement.

“Southampton is a club with a very rich history in developing young players, so it is a very good club for me to develop my skills and to learn a lot as a young player.

“I know that the team expects a lot from me and I’m going to try to give all I can to help the team.”

Southampton finished 11th in the Premier League last season and are looking to rebuild, having also sold midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg to Tottenham for £20m.

Hasenhuttl is pleased with his latest capture and is expecting Salisu to slot straight into the side. 

“This is an important signing for us, Mohammed is a player who fits our profile well,” the Austrian said.

“He is young and has a great amount of potential, but he is also someone who has the qualities to come in and help the team as soon as he is up to speed with our way of playing.

“I like what I have seen of him so far in his games with Valladolid. He is strong defensively, is calm with the ball – something that is important in our team – and he has good speed too.

“I think he will fit in well with us and that this will be a good place for him to develop his game further. We have some good centre-backs here and this will be another strong option for us.”

Rangers youngster Ross McCrorie on Hibernian’s radar

Hibernian are interested in signing Ross McCrorie from Scottish Premiership rivals Rangers in the summer transfer window, according to The Scottish Sun. Hibs are set to make their move for the 22-year-old, who can operate as a central defender or as a defensive midfielder.

Hibs manager Jack Ross is keen on securing the services of McCrorie, who has been on the books of Rangers his entire professional club football career so far. However, the Scotland Under-21 international has been out on loan at Ayr United, Dumbarton and Portsmouth in recent years.

McCrorie, who was deployed as a right-back at times at Portsmouth during his loan spell last season, is a very talented and promising young player, but he is unlikely to get much playing time at Rangers during the 2020-21 campaign. A move to Hibs, who are an ambitious club, on a permanent move would make sense for the Scottish youngster.

Leeds United eye QPR ace Eberechi Eze

Leeds United are interested in signing Eberechi Eze from Queens Park Rangers in the summer transfer window, according to The Mirror. Eze is one of the best young attacking midfielders in the Championship and is valued at £20 million by his club QPR.

The West Yorkshire outfit will play in the Premier League next season after winning automatic promotion from the Championship. This is the first time that Leeds will feature in the top flight of English football since 2004, and the club’s director of football Victor Orta has identified Eze as a player who would make Marcelo Bielsa’s side better.

West Ham United and Crystal Palace are also interested in the 22-year-old attacking midfielder, who scored 14 goals and provided eight assists in 46 Championship games for QPR during the 2019-20 campaign, according to WhoScored. Rangers are likely to lose Eze this summer, as he is too good for the Championship.

Barcelona interested in Gaya

According to a recent report from Sport, Barcelona are interested in making a move to try and sign Valencia defender Jose Gaya.

The 25-year-old, who grew up in the club’s youth system, could wind up being sold as the La Liga regulars continue to struggle with financial problems as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

There have been rumblings in the last few days that Valencia is willing to put their entire squad up for sale in one way or another in order to raise funds, but the popular belief was that the left-back wasn’t going to be someone they’d realistically consider selling. However, if Barca are able to come forward with a lucrative offer, it’ll be incredibly tough for them to say no.

Barca appear to be going through something of a transitional phase right now, and if they believe Gaya can take them to the next level, they’ll do everything in their power to get him.

Ceballos staying at Arsenal unlikely?

According to a recent report from AS, Arsenal’s chances of keeping Real Madrid midfielder Dani Ceballos on the books have weakened as a direct result of his good form to end the season.

The Gunners were hoping that Real would be open to the possibility of extending his loan spell at the Emirates, or alternatively consider selling him on a permanent deal.

Ceballos, when he’s playing at his very best, is easily capable of dictating the pace of any game he plays in. Whether or not he can continue to do that on a consistent basis is another matter altogether, though, but even if he doesn’t stay at Arsenal, his future does look incredibly bright.

Whether or not Madrid themselves want to keep him in their own first team plans is a bit of a mystery, but you’d have to think they’re at least going to be considering it after the last few months.

Manchester United don’t want Dembele

According to a recent report from Sport, Manchester United have not shown any interest in trying to sign Barcelona forward Ousmane Dembele.

The reason for this is believed to be due to his fitness problems, which could be an indication that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer does not believe he will be able to cope with the physical pressures that the Premier League brings.

Dembele is often viewed as a controversial figure at the Nou Camp and even the man himself probably wouldn’t deny that fact, but his ability speaks for itself. United are going in search of global superstars that can help them challenge for the title once again, and working through that process isn’t going to be easy.

Dembele will almost certainly get a lucrative move away from the Spanish giants at some point in the future, but it won’t be to Old Trafford – if this report is to be believed, that is.