Arsenal agree £50m deal for Brighton's White – Paper Round

Arsenal agree White deal

The Telegraph reports that Arsenal are finally close to sealing a deal for Brighton’s central defender Ben White. White has been on international duty with England for Euro 2020, with the 23-year-old one of the best young defenders in Britain at the moment. Arsenal have agreed a £50 million deal with their fellow Premier League side in order to secure his presence next season.

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Paper Round’s view: White has shown at Leeds and then with Brighton that he is capable of handling himself and he has the potential to offer more for his side. Arsenal needed to have a refresh of their squad, and the exit of David Luiz made it more pressing that they should find a central defender in order to give them some defensive solidity under Mikel Arteta.

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‘Racial abuse at England players after final disgusting and disgraceful’

Milan close in on Diaz

AC Milan are closing in on the signature of Real Madrid’s Brahim Diaz, according to The Sun. The 21-year-old Spanish player has spent time on loan with the Italian side and is set to join on a two-year loan. Milan will be able to spend 22 million euros to make the deal permanent, but Real Madrid will also have a buyback clause that is worth 27 million euros, though he is not a first choice player yet.

Paper Round’s view: Milan have found a decent prospect in Diaz, and it appears as if Real Madrid are ready to accept they might be making a mistake too. The buyback clause seems like an abuse of power when larger sides do it, but it does also give Diaz a reason to improve so that he could gain some kind of redemption by moving back to Real Madrid.

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Niguez-Griezmann set for swap deal

Atletico Madrid could soon welcome back Antoine Griezmann to their team. The 30-year-old French international has been at Barcelona for two years, but he could now be included in a deal that brings Saul Niguez to the Catalan side. That would see Griezmann join Luis Suarez and Joao Felix in a dangerous looking attacking trio to defend their La Liga title.

Paper Round’s view: Griezmann has been a disappointment at Barcelona and perhaps a return to the direct and aggressive play at Atletico would be enough for him to rediscover his best form for the remainder of his career. Giving up Niguez would be a huge blow for Atletico, but Diego Simeone’s team appear able to find a replacement for most players in the market easily.

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Chelsea target Haaland

The Mail reports on the prospects of Chelsea signing Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund. The 20-year-old Norwegian international striker was the subject of an opening, rejected bid from Chelsea. It was believed to be cash but plus one of Callum Hudson-Odoi and Tammy Abraham. However Hakim Ziyech, Hudson-Odoi and Abraham would have to be included in a deal that could run to £170 million.

Paper Round’s view: Haaland is an exceptional striker and perhaps the best young player in world football. Kylian Mbappe might have something to say about that, but the fact is Dortmund can play hardball for a limited window. Next summer it is believed that Haaland will be available for around £70 million, which means they may have to compromise soon.

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Euro 2020

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Belgium can take a lot from Portugal win, but injuries to Hazard and De Bruyne are a worry

Belgium faced and passed the Cristiano Ronaldo test as they defeated Portugal in the last-16 of the Euro 2020 championships, but injuries will leave them worried.

Ahead of the game between the two sides much of the focus was on their respective star strikers. Romelu Lukaku for Belgium, Ronaldo for Portugal. The Juventus striker remains one of the best forwards in the world, and since his move to Italy, the Inter Milan man has added a direct effectiveness to his game not just in front of goal, but with his teammates alongside him.

Lukaku was more impressive on Sunday night, at the heart of a few dangerous counterattacks. But really, this was not a golden game for the pair. The danger came from elsewhere. Portugal, in truth, rarely threatened, and Thibaut Courtois could be calm for most of the game. Thorgan Hazard was ultimately the difference in Seville. The fact it was Eden Hazard’s younger brother who came through for Roberto Martinez’s side should provide both encouragement and a cause for concern.

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Lukaku v Ronaldo – who will emerge victorious this evening?

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The 28-year-old younger sibling of the eldest Hazard has had a perfectly decent career of his own, but he has never been regarded as the equal of the Real Madrid forward. His strike was well hit, though Rui Patricio might rue the error he made with his footwork as the ball initially came towards him.

Thorgan Hazard

Image credit: Getty Images

Nevertheless, his intervention was decisive at a time when there was precious little inspiration on the pitch, however frenetic and dramatic events became towards the end of the second half. Belgium should bring this experience into the quarter-finals against Italy, who may be able to exact more pressure in the later stages of the match with the resilience they have shown in their own games.

Belgium can be pleased that despite the flurry of fouls, anger and yellow cards, they were able to hold firm against a team of Ronaldo, Bernardo Silva, Joao Felix, Bruno Fernandes and others. There was concern their backline of thirty-somethings would start to creak and flounder under pressure, but instead they were relatively calmed. Their experience rather than their age was at the forefront of their performance, and meant that a desperate but uninspired frontline for Portugal was calmly dealt with.

However, there are concerns on the horizon for Martinez and his players. Kevin De Bruyne went off injured with an ankle injury, and while it is entirely possible that he will be back for the quarter-finals, the expression on his face betrayed worry that things are more serious. He did not enjoy an easy season with Manchester City as he was again affected by injuries which threaten to derail his career as he approaches his thirties. While it appears that Pep Guardiola has the contacts to get him back in action whenever injury strikes for now, he will not be able to hold back the natural decay that occurs with players approaching the end of their careers. Nevertheless, Belgium may now have to prepare for Friday’s game against Italy without the certain inclusion of perhaps the best player still in the tournament.

‘You’ve got to see it to believe it!’ – Can England win the Euros?

Things are made more complicated by Hazard Sr. It did not appear to be a full, severe hamstring pull, but he immediately decided to come off towards the end of the game when something in his muscle gave him discomfort. It was a sensible move, but it means that there is also a chance that Belgium will have to turn to the far more prosaic Yannick Carrasco. Hazard has not been anything like the player Chelsea let go to Spain, but he definitely appears to be enjoying the pressure-lite ambience of life away from the Bernabeu.

The win over Portugal will give Martinez and his players confidence. Italy are not especially better than the players they have already faced, and beaten. They have shown that their defence is not a liability, but is a perfectly capable backline that should be able to handle the challenges most teams can present. Lukaku continues to improve after his time in Italy, and there are no huge weaknesses across the team. But it can’t be ignored that with only a few days to prepare for a new team, style and challenge, they will be doing so with fundamentally concerning disruption.

Euro 2020

Opinion: Morata delivers for Spain – what more do people want from him?

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Sterling ready to quit Man City after being offered to Spurs – Paper Round

Sterling set to quit City

The Mirror explains why Raheem Sterling is now keen to leave Manchester City. The 26-year-old England international had been due to start talks on a new deal to extend the contract he has that currently has two years remaining. However, as he was used in a part-exchange offer to Spurs for Harry Kane, he has decided to reassess his future and may run down his deal.

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Paper Round’s view: Sterling had a difficult year last season and was unable to produce the form that people had come to expect. Pep Guardiola appears to have little patience for his players being inconsistent, and that is no surprise if he can always ask for more money to have them replaced. Quite where Sterling would be able to go from the Etihad is unclear now that he is not as deadly a forward.

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‘You’ve got to see it to believe it!’ – Can England win the Euros?

Kabak Premier League move still possible

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp decided against making Ozan Kabak’s loan move to Anfield permanent, despite a clause requiring a payment of just £17 million to complete the deal. The 21-year-old Turkish defender does have interest from elsewhere though, with the Sun saying £13m would be enough to convince Schalke. Potential buyers are: Leicester, Newcastle and Crystal Palace, plus Ligue Un teams Nice and Rennes.

Paper Round’s view: Kabak did not do enough at Liverpool to show why he was one rated as one of the most talented young defenders in Europe. If any club is willing to take a gamble, then giving him the chance to show his ability and rediscover his performance might be a simple way to bring in a player with huge potential who was sidetracked by his club’s problems.

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Haaland against Bayern move

While Bayern Munich have been credited with an interest in Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Braut Haaland, Spanish newspaper Marca believes that the 20-year-old Norwegian striker is not keen on making a swap between the two Bundesliga sides. He remains keen on joining Real Madrid, and if he decides to try the Premier League, Chelsea are leading the pack for his signature.

Paper Round’s view: Haaland is one of the most exciting talents in world football, and one of the players who looks able to take over from Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as one of those talents that put away at least a goal a game. Staying with Bayern might not be an option given the German champions are struggling with cash this summer, and Dortmund want more than 100 million euros for their man.

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Amos turns down United

Manchester United’s former goalkeeper Ben Amos has turned down the chance to return to the Premier League club. The 31-year-old last played at Charlton Athletic but has seen his contract expire, and there is now interest from Ipswich, who need to add strength in their goalkeeping department. The Mail suggests that Amos did not want to go back to United to add cover as he wanted more playing time.

Paper Round’s view: United appear to have secured a deal for Tom Heaton when his contract with Aston Villa expires, and in turn Sergio Romero is believed to be wanted by both Juventus and Everton. Amos showed little in his career to suggest that he would be a success at United but given Tom Heaton looks likely to turn up as third choice, it appears standards were not desperately high.

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Euro 2020

Opinion: Morata delivers for Spain – what more do people want from him?

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Opinion: Morata delivers for Spain – what more do people want from him?

Here’s a quick question: what do Kylian Mbappe, Harry Kane, Thomas Muller, Gerard Moreno, Eden Hazard, Gareth Bale and Bruno Fernandes all have in common?

They all have fewer goals at Euro 2020 than Alvaro Morata.

Here’s another one. If we use “forward” in the loosest sense to mean anyone in the frontline of Spain’s 4-3-3, then Morata is competing with Dani Olmo, Pablo Sarabia, Gerard Moreno, Ferran Torres, Adama Traore and Mikel Oyarzabal for a starting spot. Those players, between them, have scored 21 goals for La Roja.

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Morata alone has scored 20.

So what does he have to do in a Spain shirt to convince everyone he deserves to start for his country?

I know, you’re screaming “finish chances!” at your device right now. According to FBRef, Morata has scored just once this tournament from 2.8 expected goals. Reasonable people might argue scoring penalties is different to open play, but even so, that’s still an xG of 1.7. He’s not clinical.

Through all the competitions FBRef have advanced data on in the past few seasons, Morata has scored 53 non-penalty goals from 55.8 xG. It’s not anything special. But he’s regularly converting the chances he gets. And it’s not like strikers are generally overperforming their xG by huge margins. Someone like Jamie Vardy, who most football fans would consider a “clinical finisher”, has taken 54.9 xG from the data collected and converted 56 times.

It’s better, but we’re not talking about wildly different rates to Morata here. Part of this is just how we measure finishing. Morata’s errors can be about mistiming his runs to end up offside, or failing to connect with crosses. None of that shows up in the data.

And it’s not quite as though Morata has a glittering club career to back him up. After looking very promising in limited minutes as a youngster at Real Madrid, he got a move to Juventus in which he was expected to prove himself one of Europe’s finest marksmen. In reality, he found himself in and out of the team, getting goals and assists when he was on the pitch but never fully earning manager Max Allegri’s trust.

After a year back at Real Madrid that was arguably his best, scoring nearly a goal every 90 minutes, he had another fresh start at Chelsea. Again, he wasn’t quite trusted all the time. He started that first season in red hot form but badly tailed off, scoring 10 goals before the New Year and just one after. It’s not a satisfying narrative. Had he started slowly but ended strong, people would have felt good about him. This way around, it just feels like he crumbled.

After Maurizio Sarri seemed to grow bored of him the following January, Morata has spent time with Atletico Madrid and Juventus, not really setting the world alight in either situation. This is someone who scores a solid if not incredible amount without ever looking that comfortable doing it, and someone who many managers don’t quite seem to trust.

There is a view that Morata is too mentally fragile to thrive as a prolific goalscorer. He has a reputation for taking setbacks poorly, for finding it difficult to deal with the natural up and down rhythms of being a top footballer. Striker is a particularly tough position for this. Even the most clinical scorers only score about 20% of their shots, so the experience of a goalscorer is knowing you’re going to fail four out of five times, but keeping buying that lottery ticket anyway.
The best centre forwards often seem to have personalities where they can just brush off failure like it’s no big deal. You think of players like Vardy or Ian Wright, who had to fight and scrap their way to the top from the lowest levels. Or you can look at someone like Romelu Lukaku, who was so completely driven to help his family and play professional football by age 16, despite what anyone would tell him. Those kinds of people have the personalities to miss chances and just keep going.

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But for all this, he’s been scoring regularly at international level. Yes, some of those goals came against minnows Lichtenstein and Malta, but he’s also scored against Germany, Italy and Croatia. He’s the country’s first reliable goalscorer since David Villa and Fernando Torres retired. That’s the Alvaro Morata Luis Enrique sees. It’s the striker who makes his manager say Spain “play with Morata and 10 more”. Perhaps he looks at Morata as someone who needs all the support he can get. Perhaps this is simply his honest view.
Morata is not always the most refined player around. You expect a handsome Spanish striker like him to have the technique of an angel, but that’s not his game at all. Even when he scores, he doesn’t always look like he’s striking the ball too cleanly. He gets caught by the flag so often that a parody Twitter account of Morata lists his current location as “offside”. He’s rough around the edges. But is this automatically the worst thing in the world?

Spain are otherwise the most refined team at the European Championship. Every pass, every movement, every touch feels like perfect precision. Everything is always in its right place, slowly working its way forward, until it gets to Morata playing to an entirely different beat.

Alvaro Morata

Image credit: Getty Images

This might actually be a good thing. Morata’s offside record, while overblown, speaks to the type of player he is. He’s always on the shoulder of the last man, looking to run in behind and stretch teams. Spain, with their classic possession-heavy style, can often be caught with two many players coming towards the ball and looking to receive it to feet.

In the later years of their golden generation, they had so many wonderful technicians coming short every time, with no one making the run in behind that would open up opportunities for those creative players to make a pass that can really hurt teams. As sides naturally want to close down those wonderful Spanish midfielders, it opens up space for Morata to make those runs. He’s taking a risk, so sometimes he’ll get caught going too soon. If your attackers never get caught offside, it’s a sign you’re playing it too safe and refusing to stretch teams where you can do serious damage.

Morata’s the joker in the pack for Enrique’s precision Spain side. While everyone else is conducting a perfect symphony, he’s shredding a guitar without worrying how the song goes. It feels abrasive to watch him lack so much of that Spanish composure, but he offers qualities that the side certainly need. Without him bursting forward and taking those scruffy shots, Spain would be at greater risk of looking static and plodding.

Considering his track record, the question is whether he can hold things together for the whole tournament. Enrique and the Spain squad need to keep Morata feeling confident somehow, because they need the things he does. It’s not always going to look great, but if Spain are to win Euro 2020, Morata is absolutely going to be a key player for the side.

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Real start Haaland talks

Spanish newspaper Marca reports that Erling Haaland has given his blessing for talks to start between Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund. The 20-year-old Norwegian striker is available for 75 million euros next summer, and it is believed that the Germans and Spaniards will come together on a compromise of around 130 million euros to complete a deal this summer.

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Paper Round’s view: Dortmund would be getting 65 million euros more than they would next season if they were to keep hold of Haaland for just one more season. As good as he is, there is probably more benefit in doubling the profit they are making on him, more or less, and being able to spend big to bring in a replacement. It might make it harder for Manchester United to sign Jadon Sancho, though.

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‘Southgate continues to baffle us there’ – Why no Sancho for England?

United close in on Sancho

The Mirror claims that Borussia Dortmund and Manchester United are close to agreeing terms for a transfer of Jadon Sancho. The 20-year-old England international will earn £250,000-a-week wages on a five-year contract with the option of a further year, and United have followed up a £60 million bid with one worth £72.5 million with another £10 million in add-ons. That is £5 million short but a compromise is expected.

Paper Round’s view: One would imagine that United simply did not want to sign Sancho last season because their approach this summer has been far more constructive. If he is signed then United will then be able to move swiftly onto improving the defence, and the focus will turn to the future of Paul Pogba, who is impressing for France while his contract starts to run down.

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Chelsea hope to tempt Ramos

Chelsea are making a late move for former Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos. The 35-year-old Spaniard is wanted by Thomas Tuchel to partner Antonio Rudiger, according to the Sun. However there is competition from Paris Saint-Germain, who can tempt him with the chance to play alongside Neymar, former teammate Angel Di Maria, and perhaps even Cristiano Ronaldo.

Paper Round’s view: If Ronaldo and Ramos team up again that would transform PSG into a side who would believe themselves to be genuine challengers for the Champions League – if only for a season or two, given their age. Chelsea’s interest might be genuine but it is difficult to square that with the new contract for Thiago Silva, who surely carries out the same role for Chelsea now.

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Bertrand set for Leicester switch

Ryan Bertrand is likely to join Southampton on a free transfer, says the Mail. The 31-year-old left-back is out of contract on the south coast, and had been wanted by Arsenal, AC Milan and Monaco. However with Leicester in need of defensive back-ups with Timothy Castagne and James Justin both potentially out for long periods with injury, Brendan Rodgers has made his move.

Paper Round’s view: Bertrand will be able to contribute for a few years yet given his fitness, and if he is coming to help fill out the Leicester squad then his career may be elongated by not having to play two times a week. He has international and Champions League experience, and will give Rodgers a reliable presence who can also play at wing-back and perhaps even further forward, if required.

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