Arsenal appoint Freddie Ljungberg as new under-23s coach
Tottenham Hotspur defender Toby Alderweireld has said he could stay at the club despite reports that he would leave in the summer.
Belgium international Alderweireld has been linked with Manchester United after failing to agree a new Spurs deal.
"Yeah, why not? he said when asked after his country's friendly win over Costa Rica whether he could stay. "I have two years left on my contract. I don't know what is going to happen."
Earlier this month, sources told ESPN FC that Tottenham and United and Tottenham were around £20 million apart in their valuations of Alderweireld.
United had hoped to tie up a deal for the defender before the World Cup but were unable to agree a fee.
Sources said they were willing to pay around £50m but Spurs value the 29-year-old at closer to £70m.
Alderweireld has a clause in his contract that allows him to leave for £25m next summer if he has not reached agreement over a new contract.
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Laurent Blanc told Le Monde he would like to prove himself as a coach outside of France as he continues to be linked to take over at Chelsea.
Blanc, 52, has been out of a job since leaving Paris Saint-Germain in 2016 and is among the candidates at Chelsea with manager Antonio Conte reportedly set to leave.
After taking time to recover from a difficult three years in Paris, he said he is ready to get back into coaching, with a move abroad high on his list of ambitions.
"When you have done three years in Paris, it's wearing," Blanc said. "I needed to take a breather. I'm very happy with that, because I'm someone who takes an interest in things outside of football.
"I have some demands in relation to myself. I would like to prove to myself that I'm capable of coaching abroad."
A centre-back during his career, Blanc played at Barcelona, Napoli, Inter Milan and Manchester United but has only coached in his native country, winning the Ligue 1 title at Bordeaux before coaching the France national team and then moving to PSG.
Chelsea forward Eden Hazard said recently that he wants to know who will manage next season, with former Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri also on the club's shortlist.
"You know as well as me the market for coaches," Blanc said. "There are a lot of coaches on the market. If a new project comes along, I'll take up the challenge. If not, I'll move on to something else."
Ian is ESPN's French football correspondent. Twitter: @ian_holyman
LONDON -- Arsene Wenger is unlikely to manage France in future because he needs to be involved in football every day, ex-Arsenal defender Bacary Sagna has told ESPN FC.
Wenger stepped down from his role as Arsenal manager at the end of last season but confirmed that he had no intention of bringing an end to his career.
He has been linked with a role with the France team, either as a potential successor to Didier Deschamps or in a more technical job, but Sagna said he did not expect that to appeal to his former boss.
"I don't think he will be the France national team manager one day because he wants to be part [of the game] every single day in what he is doing," Sagna said at the launch of Primetag, a digital tool that offers players, teams, brands and media a new way to utilise social media information.
"There's only some momentum with the French national team and for him it's not enough. I think he will try to get a team [a club].
"After being such an important man in the football world, such a big manager and having so much influence on so many players, he can't stay away from the pitch.
"I don't know where it's going to be, where he's going to end up, but he's going to be back soon, I think."
Sagna angered many Arsenal fans when he ran his contract down and joined Manchester City on a free transfer in 2014 after seven years with the Gunners.
But he stressed that his respect for Wenger was undiminished, saying: "He's the one who had a big impact in my life because he brought me to English football, to the dream of many players, and he made me play for Arsenal which was my favourite team when I was young.
"I had the chance to wear the shirt and he gave me the opportunity to do it. I was sad when I saw him walking away after 22 years. He deserved a farewell and the respect he had. Everyone showed gratitude to him. He deserved it."
Having played in three of the last four major international tournaments Sagna, 35, is not in the France World Cup squad but was upbeat about their chances.
"The France national team is really strong," he said. "Every single position is really strong. We have amazing players going to the World Cup and I think they're going to do well, not only because they are talented but because they are really young.
"There's a good vibe in the team and in the most recent competitions, in the World Cup in 2014 and in Euro 2016 we did well. I'm looking forward to seeing the team reach the final and winning."
Sagna also believes that losing the Euro 2016 final to Portugal in France will make the national team even more determined.
"I remember the first words [in the dressing room] after losing the final were thinking about the World Cup," he said.
"It was disappointing to lose the final the way we did in France, and I think the team wants to live these kind of moments again because it's just magical, crazy when you see the impact it had on the country itself. They have quality and they're going to go step by step."
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.
You'd think given their glaring need for a new goalkeeper that Liverpool would be heavily linked to anyone with a pair of gloves this summer, yet journalists most closely connected to the club only seem to be mentioning one man; Roma's Brazilian shot-stopper Alisson.
Alisson's rise has been rather sudden. A little over a year ago he was Wojciech Szczesny's backup and did not become the starter until the former Arsenal man left to join Juventus. After only a couple of months as Roma's number one, Alisson's value had soared and there was talk of Liverpool preparing a massive January offer for him.
That offer never materialised as Jurgen Klopp instead gave Loris Karius a chance to prove himself, but the speculation never went away and has intensified in recent weeks following the meltdown suffered by Karius in the Champions League final last month.
Alisson's main credentials appear to be that he is Brazil's number one and by definition better than Manchester City's Ederson, his understudy in the international setup.
That might not actually be the case though. Roberto Firmino is being kept out of the very same Brazil side by Gabriel Jesus, but you'd be hard pressed to find any "Kopite" who would take the City youngster over their beloved "Bobby".
International managers occasionally get these things wrong, even the great ones. Who could forget Sir Alex Ferguson not taking Alan Hansen to the 1986 World Cup? The Liverpool skipper would have walked into almost any team in the world at that time yet he couldn't get into Scotland's. Yes, it's been 32 years and I really ought to let it go, but what can I say, it still rankles.
Getting back to the matter at hand though, being better than Ederson isn't really that big an accomplishment. The City 'keeper had a good first season in England but he's no David De Gea. The Manchester United man is the benchmark for all goalkeepers in the Premier League, and currently no one in England comes close.
Atletico Madrid's Jan Oblak is up there, but is Alisson in the conversation too? His price tag suggests so. Liverpool seem to agree as the suggestion from the Merseyside press is that Klopp has his heart set on the Brazilian and refuses to consider alternatives, in much the same way he did with Virgil van Dijk.
Klopp's "Van Dijk or no one" stance a year ago was as admirable as it was risky, but taking the same approach with Alisson would be a far greater gamble given Liverpool's obvious need for a goalkeeper.
Last August, Klopp challenged a room full of journalists to "tell me five (centre-backs) that would make us stronger. Five. Then you win a prize." If he asks that same question about goalkeepers he might be there for a while and he'd better be prepared to give out a lot of prizes.
There was a belated happy ending to the Van Dijk chase as the defender arrived in January and made exactly the kind of impact Klopp expected. Some still believe that Klopp should have addressed the issue in the summer while still going for Van Dijk in January, but the German doesn't operate like that.
There are goalkeepers out there who are better than those Liverpool already have, but unless Klopp sees them as being a clear upgrade (like Alisson) the feeling is that he'd rather stick with what he has. It makes sense; why pay £40 million for Jack Butland if he is only a bit better than the man he would be replacing?
Before the Champions League final that approach was fine, but the extraordinary events in Kiev changed everything, certainly for the fans. We can only guess how Klopp feels but there are very few Kopites who would be ok with the club not signing anybody if for whatever reason they are unable to land Alisson.
Turning to Simon Mignolet again is surely out of the question. He lost his place because he was not the answer and nothing has changed in that regard.
Twenty-four-year-old Karius hasn't hit his ceiling yet, but after his nightmare showing against Real Madrid perhaps he never will. Suffering such humiliation on the grandest of stages is not an easy thing to come back from. Not only does he need to rebuild his own confidence, he must also win back the trust of his teammates and the crowd.
He will be under the most intense scrutiny imaginable and any mistake, no matter how small, will be magnified. As much as Klopp might want to keep faith with his young compatriot, it would be a distraction the team could do without.
Karius may still have an Anfield future but he cannot be counted on for next season, so if Klopp genuinely is thinking only of Alisson then he'd better be prepared to pay whatever it takes to get the Brazilian, or else be willing to change his mind.
The incredible success of Mohamed Salah at Anfield makes a deal for Alisson far more difficult. Roma feel they were short changed by the Reds over the Egyptian so Alisson won't come cheap. It might even take a fee close to the £75m it took to land Van Dijk.
That seems excessive, but that's what many said about the Van Dijk fee, too. Nobody says that anymore after seeing the Dutchman completely transform Liverpool's previously shaky backline.
For a genuinely world-class goalkeeper almost no price is too high. Whether Alisson is in that bracket is for Klopp to decide, but if he believes he is then he should pay whatever it takes to get him.
If he is not sure, if Real Madrid swoop in or if Roma simply refuse to sell, then Klopp must look for an alternative because sticking with what he has is simply not an option. Not this time.
Dave Usher is one of ESPN FC's Liverpool bloggers. Follow him on Twitter: @theliverpoolway.
Wolverhampton Wanderers forward Benik Afobe has joined second-tier side Stoke City on a six-month loan ahead of a permanent move in January -- just days after signing for the Premier League club, Wolves said on Tuesday.
DR Congo international Afobe joined Wolves on a loan from Bournemouth in January and scored six goals in 17 appearances as the Molineux outfit finished top of the Championship last season and sealed promotion to the top flight.
But after making his transfer permanent on June 1, Wolves have agreed to him moving to Stoke on loan, with an obligation for the Championship side to buy him outright in the January transfer window.
Wolves said Stoke had made "a significant offer" for the 25-year-old.
#WelcomeAfobeStoke City are delighted to announce the signing of @Wolves striker Benik AfobeThe 25-year-old striker has moved to the bet365 Stadium on a six-month loan but with an obligation to purchase him for an undisclosed fee in January???? https://t.co/m3OlyfxJuH#SCFC pic.twitter.com/CoHv85EAL4
"Whilst we decided to exercise the option in Benik's loan deal from AFC Bournemouth at the end of the season, Stoke City's interest in signing him was very strong. The end result is positive for all parties," Wolves sporting director Kevin Thelwell said on the club website.
Stoke were relegated to the second tier after finishing 19th in the league standings last season.
Manager Gary Rowett, who signed Nigerian midfielder Oghenekaro Etebo on Monday, told Stoke's website: "If there's one signing you want to make to get you out of the Championship Benik is that kind of player."
Afobe said: "The manager is probably the main reason why I'm signing, to be honest. He's very ambitious; he's got a project going on here and I want to be a big part of it.
"I believe it what he is trying to achieve and I want to help us get back where we belong."
Huddersfield Town have snapped up Stoke City's Egypt international winger Ramadan Sobhi, who will sign a three-year deal after the conclusion of the World Cup in Russia.
The 21-year-old has made 46 appearances for Stoke across all competitions after joining from Egyptian side El Ahly in 2016.
He scored one of his two Premier League goals last season against Huddersfield on Boxing Day.
Sobhi has 26 caps for Egypt and is among the team's key players at the World Cup, which begins on Thursday, the day before Egypt's opener against Uruguay.
✅ #htafc will sign Egyptian international @RamadanSobhi from @stokecity for an undisclosed fee following the conclusion of this summer's World Cup.???????? Ramadan flew in from Egypt's training camp to sign a three-year contract with the Club.➡️ https://t.co/TatWwxFids (AT) pic.twitter.com/VHRg25HTAL
"He's a real talent and has achieved a lot for a player who is only 21 years old," Huddersfield manager David Wagner told the club's website.
"Ramadan will join our club on the back of a challenging season. However, he already has a lot of the qualities ... he's skilful, direct and very quick-thinking. He still has a lot of space to improve, too, which is very exciting."
Stoke were relegated to the second-tier Championship after finishing 19th in the Premier League last season.
Mexico forward Raul Jimenez will join newly promoted Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Premier League next season, on loan from Benfica.
Wolves announced the move on Tuesday, less than a week before Jimenez and Mexico kick off against Germany on Sunday.
The 27-year-old is Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo's first signing of the summer as they prepare to compete in the top flight for the first time since 2012.
We are delighted to confirm that @Raul_Jimenez9 has joined Wolves on a season-long loan from @SLBenfica. #BienvenidoRaúl???????????? pic.twitter.com/NGBFMx8kFU
"Wolves have secured the signing of Mexico and SL Benfica forward Raul Jimenez, subject to international clearance and work permit," the English club said on their website.
Jimenez scored six goals and provided seven assists in 33 appearances for Benfica in the Portuguese top-flight last season. He has 19 league goals over the past three seasons after one year at Atletico Madrid.
The Club America product has scored 14 goals in 63 appearances for Mexico.
Manchester United are the world's most valuable football club for a second consecutive year, according to the annual list published by Forbes on Tuesday.
The Premier League runners-up, who last year ended European champions Real Madrid's four-year stint at the top of the list, were valued at $4.12 billion, up 12 percent from a year ago, Forbes said.
The average value of the top 20, which relates to the 2016-17 season, rose by 14 percent over the period.
Real Madrid, who last month won a third-straight Champions League title, were second, with a value of $4.08 billion, up 14 percent from the previous year.
Barcelona ($4.06 billion), Bayern Munich ($3.06 billion) and United's neighbours Manchester City ($2.47 billion) rounded off the top five. Six English clubs feature in the top 10.
According to Forbes, which bases valuation on the level of equity plus net debt, Barcelona or Real Madrid could soon take over top spot -- the former because of their consistently high performance in the Champions League and the latter because of additional expected revenue from their renovated stadium when completed in four years.
Only the top three clubs rank in the top 10 teams in all sports, with United, Real Madrid and Barcelona taking up the 2-4 spots behind the NFL's Dallas Cowboys but just ahead of baseball's New York Yankees.
Forbes said the 20 most valuable teams are now worth an average of $1.69 billion, a rise it attributed to the decline in the value of the U.S. dollar relative to the Euro.
The 20 most valuable clubs:
1. Manchester United ($4.12bn)
2. Real Madrid ($4.08bn)
3. Barcelona ($4.06bn)
4. Bayern Munich ($3.06bn)
5. Manchester City ($2.47bn)
6. Arsenal ($2.23bn)
7. Chelsea ($2.06bn)
8. Liverpool ($1.94bn)
9. Juventus ($1.47bn)
10. Tottenham Hotspur ($1.23bn)
11. Paris Saint-Germain ($971m)
12. Borussia Dortmund ($901m)
13. Atletico Madrid ($848m)
14. West Ham United ($754m)
15. Schalke ($707m)
16. Roma ($618m)
17. AC Milan ($612m)
18. Inter Milan ($606m)
19. Leicester City ($500m)
20. Napoli ($471m)
LONDON -- Manchester City can emulate Barcelona's level of dominance under Pep Guardiola in the next few years if they keep the core of their team together, according to former City defender Bacary Sagna.
Guardiola led City to the Premier League title in historic fashion this season, breaking competition records for most points, most wins, most goals scored, biggest margin of victory and biggest goal difference -- though they exited the Champions League at the quarterfinal stage to Liverpool.
Sagna, who played under Guardiola for one year before being released in the summer of 2017, believes it is only a matter of time before City make their presence felt in Europe in a similar manner to the great Barcelona teams that won the Champions League in 2009 and 2011.
"They're going to be flying in the next five years, because all of them are 22, 23 years old," the Frenchman told ESPN FC at the launch of Primetag, a digital tool that offers players, teams, brands and media a new way to utilise social media information.
"If they keep the shape of the team -- and they will -- they're going to be very successful, a bit like Barcelona were [under Guardiola] in the past. They're going to be flying in every competition they're going to be playing in."
Sagna added that he saw the foundations for City's domestic achievements being laid by the former Bayern Munich and Barcelona boss last season, though he admitted the players' execution of the system fell short in key moments that undermined their hopes of winning major silverware.
"The way we were training was different, the pressure we had on training was different," Sagna added. "It was very demanding and it's still very demanding. He wants to take the best of every single player and I think this season shows that he managed to do it.
"The previous season we had a good team, we were really strong, but we missed a little bit of attitude, of desire on the pitch. This season you notice the team was like sharks. That's what they called themselves and they were, because they reached 100 points. They achieved great [things].
"The Champions League was the only bad point of the season, but they're going to be leading the top teams in the seasons coming and they're going to be achieving a lot."
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.
David Seaman believes that although a top four finish is achievable for Arsenal under Unai Emery, their defence needs to be addressed.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles has signed a long-term contract extension with Arsenal.
He is the first member of the Arsenal first-team to extend his contract since Unai Emery took over as head coach, an indication the new boss views the England youth international as part of his plans.
New season, new contract, new number.Get your @Ains_7 shirt ???? https://t.co/XRihKEbj2z pic.twitter.com/PlB3Ig8azG
Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis hinted as much after Emery was announced as Arsene Wenger's replacement on May 23, when highlighting how the former Paris Saint-Germain boss had impressed in his interview with his detailed knowledge of players like Maitland-Niles.
"If we were speaking about one of our young players, if we targeted Ainsley Maitland-Niles for example, Unai knows Ainsley," Gazidis told the Arsenal website at the time.
"He's watched him, he's familiar with his patterns of play, his capabilities, he's very excited about his potential and was able to talk about how excited he was to work with Ainsley, to develop him as a player."
Maitland-Niles said: "You don't really hear a lot of young players being shouted out by their managers, especially a new manager who hasn't really seen them play too much.
"I think it's brilliant to hear from him and it gives me a load of confidence. It feels fantastic knowing that I'm going to be a part of the squad, and a big part of the squad. It means a lot with the new head coach coming in and Arsenal tying me down [with a new contract]. I'm very pleased.
"We had a little meeting. [Emery] said that he wants all of his players to work hard and I'm no stranger to doing that. It will be second nature to me. I think [the high-pressing game] suits me a lot, too. I've got a lot of pace to give to the team, pressing up high and winning the ball back as soon as possible is a major factor in football."
The 20-year-old joined Arsenal's Hale End academy at the age of nine and was frequently used as a utility player by Wenger last season, when he made 28 appearances in all competitions.
He is mostly viewed as a central midfielder but was also used as a full-back and wing-back by Wenger.
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.
Manchester United goalkeeper Dean Henderson is set to sign a new deal before being loaned to a Championship club, sources have told ESPN FC.
Henderson's existing deal was due to expire later this month and United feared he could leave following an impressive loan spell in which he helped Shrewsbury Town reach last season's League One playoff final.
The England under-21 international was named in the PFA's League One Team of the Year and a number of clubs were reported to be keen to sign him as a free agent when his contract expired.
However, United have convinced the goalkeeper to extend his stay at the club, where he has played since joining from Carlisle at the age of 14.
Henderson will be behind David De Gea, Sergio Romero and Joel Pereira, but United have high hopes for his future.
They feel he would be best served by going out on loan to a Championship club next term to continue his development.
Peter O'Rourke is ESPN FC's transfer news correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @SportsPeteO.
LIVERPOOL, England -- Liverpool's move for Nabil Fekir fell through last weekend following the medical the French international took ahead of a €60 million transfer.
A source has told ESPN FC that Liverpool did not attempt to renegotiate terms with Lyon, who said in statement on Saturday that they had broken off negotiations. Both clubs have since offered no indication as to why the move broke down.
Fekir suffered a cruciate ligament injury when on international duty back in September 2015 that forced him to miss the majority of the 2015-16 campaign.
ESPN FC spoke to former Chelsea first-team doctor Ralph Rogers for his insight into the process of a football medical.
ESPN FC: Can you explain how in-depth and thorough medicals are for multi million pound transfers?
Dr Rogers: Actually, it's a fallacy. Sometimes they're not at all. When you have these transfer deadlines, how in-depth can a football medical be? Sometimes they're not. Sometimes teams are not forthcoming with past medical injuries.
How in-depth can medicals be when you have these transfer deals going on left and right? Especially when a club has not totally disclosed all the medical details -- and clubs don't always do that, it's not always transparent. It's almost like: "It's for you to find out."
ESPN FC: Fekir, for example, suffered a serious knee injury three years ago and underwent a minor procedure last March. Can previous injuries be a deal-breaker?
RR: I don't know if Liverpool had all the information about his previous injury, I'm sure they might have suspected because he was out for a few months. Nobody really tells you too much about your medical history if they don't want you to know. It's like buying a used car. If you're buying a used car, they might not tell you everything that's wrong with that car. That's in all industries.
But then if you're going to buy someone then you get all the information. On top of that, there are tests that are made -- you can look at muscle balance, muscle strength across both knees. There are all kinds of strength, agility and speed tests you can make for you to be happy or not happy. It's all about whether these (previous injuries) would impact a player in the future.
ESPN FC: It seems it's all comes down to risk. Some Liverpool fans will watch Fekir at the World Cup this summer and wonder why the transfer fell through ...
RR: There always can be a danger when playing a contact sport such as football. I would applaud the medical staff for making such a call. They looked at the risk and they weren't happy with what they saw. For fans, it's easy to spend somebody else's money. But if you bought the player and then he broke down then there would be questions about why their club bought that player.
You have experts, highly trained, highly intelligent people looking at risk, injury-risk and what could happen in the future. The club might want the player for the long term and not just one or two years. They might want him for their five-year plan, but he might only have an 18-month knee or whatever the injury is.
It's a science and it's not all about: "I want, I want, I want." It's all about what's right for the club. €60m is a lot of money. I'm very supportive of the medical staff in whatever decision they make because they made it for a reason.
ESPN FC: I get the impression that every club is different in regards to how much emphasis they place on the results of a medical
RR: If you've got a player that is supremely gifted, but can possibly become injured because of some underlying condition -- do you buy him? It comes down to the club. That's my point.
If you're a very wealthy club then you don't really care because it's not a problem. "We bought this person for £80m and he broke down. No problem, we'll just buy another one." If money and support is in abundance then you can just about do anything. Again, I applaud the medical staff for making the call.
Glenn is ESPN FC's Liverpool correspondent. You can follow him on Twitter: @GlennPrice94.
Arsenal have announced that former Gunners midfielder Freddie Ljungberg will return to the club as head coach of the club's under-23 side.
Ljungberg spent the 2016-17 season as the U15 coach before leaving to become then-academy director Andries Jonker's assistant when he took over at Wolfsburg.
He will work under new academy director Per Mertesacker as Arsenal continue to make former players key figures in the youth setup.
"I'm delighted to be returning to the club," Ljungberg said. "Arsenal has always been a special place for me and I'm really excited at this opportunity to work with our under-23 team.
"I look forward to working with the talented young players we have at the club. I know many of them well and will work hard to help them continue developing and become the best players and people they can be."
Welcome home, @freddie ???? https://t.co/2Js4IGKmBF
Ljungberg inherits a team full of talent as Arsenal's U23s won the Premier League 2 division last season despite often playing without top players like Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock and Eddie Nketiah when they were called up to Arsene Wenger's first team.
However, former U23 coach Steve Gatting was suspended near the end of the season after accusations of bullying.
Ljungberg's return also helps continue Wenger's legacy at the club after he ended his 22-year reign as manager, with Jens Lehmann also part of backroom staff under new head coach Unai Emery.
"It's great to have Freddie back at the club. He brings great footballing experience and the highest possible levels of enthusiasm, energy and encouragement for our young professionals," Mertesacker said.
"He understands the club's values and how important it is to give young players the opportunity to grow and develop. When Freddie left for Wolfsburg it was with the club's blessing and with a return to Arsenal some day in mind. Everyone knows Freddie loves the club and we look forward to him developing his career with us."
Ljungberg joined Arsenal in 1998 and stayed for nine seasons, winning two Premier League titles and three FA Cups as well as being a member of the side that went a full league season unbeaten.
Fellow "Invincible" Robert Pires told ESPN FC last week that he was thrilled about Ljungberg's return.
"I'm very happy for Freddie because he's back with Arsenal," Pires said. "For the legacy, of course, it's very important for the club to keep ex-Arsenal players. That's why they chose Freddie, Jens Lehmann and Per Mertesacker.
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.