Liverpool have suffered a hitch in their Champions League final preparations after Dutch side AZ Alkmaar turned down their request for a friendly.
Jurgen Klopp is hoping to end his season on a high having just lost out to Manchester City in the race for the Premier League title this season.
The Reds come up against fellow English club Tottenham in the European showpiece on June 1, however their build-up has hit a snag.
According to The Sun, AZ Alkmaar were approached about playing a friendly on the weekend of May 25 and 26 but rejected Liverpools proposal.
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The Eredevisie club reportedly cited that many of their players will be on holiday when the fixture is due to take place and therefore snubbed the Anfield clubs offer.
A Dutch source told The Sun: Liverpool asked AZ to play a friendly in the run-up to the Champions League final. It would be in Spain at their request, around a week before the final.
Monstrous in the air, both defensively and when attacking set-pieces, his composure and class in possession keeps Liverpool in control at all times. Their defence conceded just 22 goals in 38 league games – and Van Dijk played in all of them.Moreover, his mere presence seems to inspire those around him. Joe Gomez, Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip all enjoyed stints as his centre-back partner; all looked reassured by the sight of their big brother alongside.
But a serious game didnt suit AZ. They wouldnt be able to pick their strongest side, as a lot of their players would still have national team commitments.
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The Premier League season reached a thrilling climax just three days ago – but clubs are already switching their attention to the 2019-20 season.
The summer transfer window opens for business this Thursday, 16 May and will remain so until 8 August.
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has admitted he “need players in” after finishing sixth, 32 points behind champions Manchester City.
Its still early and most clubs are looking at many names, options and scenarios with no doubt some complications and complexities to come. Things can and do change.
It wasnt long ago that a Manchester City fan was attacked in Germany, so why they think its OK to sing songs about people being attacked on the streets when one of their own was attacked not long ago is very naive.
Atletico Madrids Spanish holding midfielder Rodri, 22, is among those being considered for the number six role.
The aim of that signing is to produce an eventual successor to 34-year-old Fernandinho. City will not be signing Sporting Lisbons Bruno Fernandes.
One player City are certainly keen on is Crystal Palaces 21-year-old right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Im told theyll face a straight battle with Manchester United and despite preferring to stay in London, he wouldnt be averse to moving north.
City have shown interest in Leicester left-back Ben Chilwell, 22, and Fulhams 18-year-old winger Ryan Sessegnon. But the form of Oleksandr Zinchenko – allied to the problems they would face selling the injury-prone Benjamin Mendy – mean that interest has cooled.
Video has emerged online of squad and club staff singing a distasteful version of Liverpools Allez Allez Allez chant on a flight home after securing the Premier League title at Brighton on Sunday.
Contract talks were held last summer with Germany midfielder Ilkay Gundogan, however no agreement was reached. And when City approached him again in January, he asked to postpone negotiations until the end of the season. It is understood he is likely to stay, even if he goes into the final year of his contract.
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Another player City like is Joe Aribo from Charlton – theyve initiated contact in the last 10 days. The 22-year-old left-footed central midfielder has scored 10 goals in 37 appearances and is on their list as a homegrown squad option.
Liverpool are the most settled of the Premier Leagues top six and this is a summer of consolidation, having already stockpiled well. Theyve done their big shop, so dont need to do it weekly.
The feeling is that to improve their squad it would take astronomical spending and there are few gettable players who can come in and be first choice.
Owners Fenway Sports Group (FSG) dont just want to splash out, take a punt or spend for the sake of it; theyd rather be nimble, brave, smart and strategic.
Their aim has always been to get to a stage where they are ready to react and make game-changing signings when the need and the opportunity arise.
They feel theyre now at that stage – as shown, for example, post Philippe Coutinho and with the acquisitions of Virgil Van Dijk and Alisson.
Currently the need, opportunity and level of finance required for such game-changing signings is not there.
So unless any unforeseen circumstances arise to change that, it will be a low-key, conservative window at Anfield.
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One, maximum two signings – and for fees unlikely to surpass, for instance, the £13m Liverpool spent on Xherdan Shaqiri last summer.
With Alberto Moreno on his way out and Nathaniel Clyne likely to go too, full-back cover – especially on the left – is needed. But not necessarily specialist cover, rather a flexible full-back – somebody who can grow into the role or operate in various positions.
Its a similar situation in attack, with Daniel Sturridge set to depart but unlikely to be replaced like-for-like. Jurgen Klopp is a huge fan of 19-year-old Rhian Brewster and therefore does not plan to recruit a back-up number nine.
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Instead, the Reds could sign a versatile attacker, allowing Klopp to shuffle the pack as and when he sees fit. Divock Origi is expected to stay, regardless of whether or not he signs a new deal.
Liverpool dont mind certain players entering the final year of their contracts and ultimately leaving for free, if they see greater relative value in them staying than exiting for a small fee.
Those who have enjoyed successful loan spells away from the club – the likes of Harry Wilson, Ryan Kent and Marko Grujic – could go out again on a temporary or permanent basis. There could also be movement for players such as Ben Woodburn, Sheyi Ojo and Ovie Ejaria.
“This season was big for me, I’ve managed to kick on and I’ve got a few years left in me, so hopefully I can take it into next season.
Liverpool have been linked with Bayer Leverkusens attacking midfielder Julian Brandt, but its thought a move for the Germany international will not materialise.
Although they were keen on Brandt in the window before Mohamed Salah was signed, the 23-year-old realised he would not be guaranteed a starting place and decided to stay put. That predicament would be worse for him at Liverpool now and, with that in mind, his £21.5m release clause along with a probable five-year contract and agent fee is not viable.
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Similar applies for RB Leipzigs Timo Werner and, previously, the Chelsea-bound Christian Pulisic. Why come to fight for a place when you can be first choice elsewhere?
Salah may not have matched his goalscoring exploits of last season – although he still ended up sharing the Golden Boot with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and teammate Sadio Mane – but the Egyptian has been just as dangerous in attacking areas thanks to his speed.
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Liverpools pursuit of Nabil Fekir a year ago was genuine and at the time he fitted the bill. But in the end Shaqiri was signed, Klopp reworked the shape of his attack and experimented with other players, and he has Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to return. So as things stand Fekir, Brandt and Werner are not targets.
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The unforeseen circumstances mentioned above would include a serious injury occurring or a key player demanding to leave. That said, Liverpool proved with Coutinho they are prepared to give a hard no, take the moral high ground and do things on their terms.
Among the players Paris St-Germain boss Thomas Tuchel has eyes on is Roberto Firmino, but its not something the Reds would even consider.
The 22-year-old has been instrumental for the Foxes this term, effectively playing as a left wing-back who is just as likely to join the attack as he is to contribute in defence.
It all depends on their transfer ban and, because of that, no leading club faces greater recruitment uncertainty. Ive heard the Court of Arbitration for Sport may not rule on that case until July, which falls bang in the middle of the transfer window.
Chelsea qualifying for the Champions League has, in one way, given them something of a headache. There are suggestions they may have reluctantly accepted the ban had they been in the Europa League; go with what theyve got, get it over and done with.
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But now theyre in the top-tier competition, Chelsea need reinforcements to help them compete at that level and are, therefore, vigorously fighting the ban.
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Should the ban stand, they will almost certainly take up the option of extending striker Olivier Girouds contract and they can do the same with the on-loan Gonzalo Higuain. Michy Batshuayi and Tammy Abraham are on their books, too, of course.
As for the wide attacker/playmaker, Eden Hazard is being heavily linked with Real Madrid and he wants the switch to happen, but its not a done deal.
If the ban stands, some feel Chelsea will refuse to let him go, accept missing out on a huge transfer fee and losing him for free a year later, in the hope that keeping him pays off on the pitch. With Pedro and Willian into their 30s and Callum Hudson-Odoi facing a long spell out injured, Hazard could be priceless.
If the ban is suspended, the Blues would be expected to sanction Hazards departure and Ive heard a potential replacement is Coutinho.
With Antoine Griezmann joining Barcelona, somebody needs to make way and the most likely candidate is Coutinho. In addition, his agent, Kia Joorabchian, has done a lot of work with Chelsea over the years.
But domestic top flight transfers can now be completed from today (May 16). Prior to this date, City or any of the other confirmed 18 clubs who are part of the 2019/20 Premier League could only agree potential signings but the paperwork can now be processed.
Other possibilities include Wilfried Zaha of Crystal Palace. The 26-year-old wants to leave Selhurst Park this summer, but there is a feeling among suitors that Palace will set too high an asking price.
Lets not forget the pre-ban signing of Christian Pulisic from Borussia Dortmund, which looks a shrewd piece of business.
In the striking department, Edinson Cavani and Marco Asensio are names that have been mentioned to me. PSG are looking to offload Cavani, whose relationship with Neymar is poor, while Asensio could be used by Real Madrid as part of the Hazard deal.
Its going to be a summer of significant change at Tottenham, regardless of what happens in the Champions League final.
Theyre looking at players who havent quite made it elsewhere – think Lucas Moura when he was out of favour at PSG, Malcom now at Barcelona – and at players who are not the finished article.
Spurs are fond of Ryan Sessegnon and the feeling is mutual. He would have stayed at Fulham if they had stayed up, but now theyre resigned to his exit. They cant afford to lose Sessegnon for nothing next summer – if he went abroad theyd only get half a million pounds in compensation and if it was a Premier League club it would go to a tribunal.
Tottenham are yet to make an offer but the sense is that a bid is incoming and it would then be down to the clubs to agree a fee. They envisage Sessegnon initially playing on the left wing before dropping to left-back long term.
There has also been strong interest in Sessegnon from Manchester United, PSG, Juventus, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig. Chelsea, too, but their transfer ban and the West London rivalry rules that out.
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The 18-year-old wants his future sorted before the Under-21 European Championships, which start on 16 June, but Tottenhams participation in the Champions League could delay matters.
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Meanwhile, there is a very good chance Christian Eriksen will be sold this summer. With the Dane seemingly unwilling to extend his contract, Spurs will want to avoid losing him on a free transfer next year. There is a slight possibility that he could pen a new deal, with a clause inserted that would allow him to join a leading club like Real Madrid or Barcelona if they made an approach.
Previously, Tottenham have pursued Aston Villas Jack Grealish and Zaha. Grealish is expected to leave Villa if they miss out on promotion from the Championship, while Zaha can be signed at the right price.
Centre-back Toby Alderweireld has a year left on his contact and a £25m release clause, so if the Belgian is sold he will need to be replaced. Jan Vertonghen is also going into the final year of his current deal.
Tottenham need a back-up striker as well. Given Fernando Llorentes role in their run to the Champions League final, that could yet be him. But the Spaniard is now 34, so clearly they may look elsewhere.
It wont be the most spectacular window, but the Gunners do have some very important business to conduct. The key question is the size of their budget.
With Europa League football, were told it will be as low as around £40m. But with Champions League football, it will be higher. Ive been led to believe that could mean up to £100m.
The higher figure would require player sales and also need to cover the salaries of signings. Theres also a revenue boost that will come with Adidas taking over as Arsenals kit supplier.
The low kitty is mainly explained by Arsenals heavy investment in recent transfer windows, a total commitment to their self-sustaining model and the adherence to financial fair play (FFP) rules.
Despite the continued absence of a technical director, the existing recruitment team have identified targets and conversations are under way. Theyre looking for experience and youth.
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Jeremy Wilson from The Telegraph mentioned Getafe centre-back Djene Dakonam, who is under contract until 2021 and has a 35m euros release clause.
Arsenal came close to a deal for PSG midfielder Christopher Nkunku in January, while Adrien Rabiot is another theyve pursued in the past – but Ive not heard that either are targets this time round.
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Other areas in which they will try to add depth are up front – Danny Welbeck is leaving and there is a desire to send Eddie Nketiah on loan – and at full-back.
We mentioned Thomas Tuchals admiration of Roberto Firmino – he is also keen on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. But like Liverpool, Arsenal would rebuff any advances.
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Decisions will need to be made on whether youngsters such as Reiss Nelson, Emile Smith Rowe, Joe Willock and Bukayo Saka are loaned out or integrated into the first team.
United are looking at bringing in a mixture of young talent and experienced big names. And the priority areas for them are central defence, full-back, central midfield and the wings.
Their first-choice centre-back is Napolis Kalidou Koulibaly, however the Senegal internationals hefty price is likely to scupper their hopes.
Koulibaly is 27, under contract until 2023 with a reported 150m euro (£130m) buy-out clause in 2021, and his club have no need to sell.
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United will strongly rival Manchester City for full-back Wan-Bissaka, while in central midfield Rabiot is among those on their radar – though much will depend on what happens with Paul Pogba.
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Im told he was the Red Devils top attacking target and that they were his preferred option if he was to return to the UK from Borussia Dortmund this summer. A couple of months ago, he was open to the transfer and those involved felt it was nailed on.
But Uniteds terrible end to the season has changed everything. Sancho is reluctant to give up Champions League football and if he is to move he wants to play for a club where stability, progression, development and a chance of winning trophies is guaranteed.
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The 19-year-old England forward now harbours severe doubts that United can offer any of those assurances. Im told never say never, but as things stand it is looking highly unlikely.
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PSG, Barcelona and Real Madrid want Sancho, too, but there has been no contact from other Premier League clubs. The transfer fee to prise him from Dortmund this summer would be in excess of £100m, though he is not agitating for a move. Its looking 50-50.
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United are among suitors for Swansea winger Daniel James but at the time of writing a deal is not close.