Jude Bellingham produced another consummate display on Saturday to help Borussia Dortmund maintain their challenge for the Bundesliga title with a comprehensive home victory over Cologne.
The 19-year-old midfielder will now meet up with his England colleagues for their opening 2024 European Championship qualifiers against Italy in Naples on Thursday and Ukraine at Wembley three days later.
It is the latest opportunity for Bellingham to shine on a big stage as speculation mounts about his club future, with a collection of the world’s leading sides competing to prise him away from German football after three years.
Of the countless clubs who would love to sign the Birmingham City academy graduate, Liverpool, Manchester City and Real Madrid appear to have emerged as the most credible destinations — although he is contracted at Dortmund until the summer of 2025 and they do not want to sanction a departure.
As there isn’t a release clause in Bellingham’s deal, his employers have no obligation to sell, and that is among the reasons why it is anticipated it will take a very high price to alter their stance.
That makes a deal challenging for every interested party and therefore — as things stand — it is regarded as increasingly unlikely that Liverpool will sign Bellingham in this summer’s transfer window.
The 19-time English champions have probably been more heavily linked than anyone else and manager Jurgen Klopp is a huge admirer. But the anticipated fee, the financial power of rival suitors and their reticence about entering a bidding war at the level expected has cast significant doubt on Liverpool’s chances.
It does not mean their pursuit is off and no firm decisions have been made, although sources with knowledge of the matter think City and Real Madrid are in stronger positions at the moment.
Considering Liverpool will finish this season empty-handed in terms of trophies (other than August’s Community Shield victory over City), sit seven points outside the Champions League spots after 26 of their 38 games, have expiring contracts and are ageing in parts of the squad, some major calls are approaching, and recruitment work is taking place on multiple fronts and with various options.
Such factors will impact the budget and, in turn, Liverpool’s ultimate hopes of landing Bellingham.
Real Madrid have opened preliminary talks over a new contract for Eduardo Camavinga with a potential €1billion release clause, reports Mario Cortegana.
The Frenchman, 20, signed a six-year deal when he moved from Rennes for €31m plus bonuses in 2021, but the Spanish club want to reward his excellent performances and attitude.
Negotiations are at a very early stage but the intention is to offer Camavinga an additional two or three years while increasing his salary and adding the same €1bn release clause that featured in new contracts for Eder Militao, Rodrygo and Vinicius Junior agreed last summer.
Manager Carlo Ancelotti has spoken recently of Camavinga’s importance to his squad, and the midfielder’s outlook and commitment — particularly to extra individual fitness work — has impressed many at the club.
Since joining Madrid, Camavinga has become a La Liga and Champions League winner, also reaching the World Cup final with France, and the club want to match his status to that new reality.
Paul Mullin was under serious consideration for a Wales call-up this month and the door is still open to the possibility of the Wrexham striker being selected in the near future, reports Stuart James.
Robert Page, the Wales manager, watched Mullin — a key figure in Welcome To Wrexham, the documentary about the Welsh club owned by actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney — before naming his squad for this month’s opening Euro 2024 qualifiers against Croatia and Latvia, including when he faced Premier League promotion candidates Sheffield United in the FA Cup and scored in both January’s drawn original tie and the February replay.
Although the non-League forward ended up being overlooked in favour of Tom Bradshaw, who plays for Millwall in the second-tier Championship, and Nathan Broadhead of Ipswich Town in League One, the English game’s third division, Page was impressed with Mullin and the 28-year-old remains on his radar.
Wales are holding an extended training camp in May for non-Premier League players, ahead of Euros qualifiers against Armenia and Turkey the following month, and Mullin, who was born on Merseyside but qualifies through a grandparent, is viewed as someone who could potentially be part of that group.
His age is not seen as any sort of barrier to a first Wales call-up (Bradshaw, 30, is two years older) but there are concerns about the leap in standard from the fifth-tier National League to international football and how difficult that transition might be. Wales last selected a non-League player in 2008 when Steve Evans, also then of Wrexham, made an appearance as a second-half substitute against Russia.
It is widely recognised that Mullin is more than capable of playing at a higher standard – Sheffield United were impressed with him across their two FA Cup ties against Wrexham – but establishing Mullin’s level is difficult, bearing in mind he has never played above League One and the majority of his football has been in League Two or lower.
Bradshaw and Broadhead have also been around the Wales set-up before — Bradshaw has three senior caps and Broadhead has represented his country at youth and under-21 levels. Mullin, in contrast, has no experience of international football.
@vancityreynolds Quality face-to-face time with Paul Mullin. @wrexham_afc #bloopers ♬ Mullin – Ryan Reynolds
But Mullin’s form this season has been impossible for Wales to ignore. He has scored 40 goals in all competitions, including 31 in the National League for Wrexham, who are currently top of the table and on course to win promotion back to the Football League for the first time since relegation in 2008.
Gareth Southgate is spearheading the Football Association’s charge to address the “rapid deterioration” in the number of English players in the Premier League and met new sports minister Lucy Frazer to discuss the issue.
Southgate, the England men’s manager, said on Thursday he might need to start picking players from “the Championship or elsewhere” and highlighted that as few as 28 per cent of players starting for Premier League sides have been eligible for England on certain weekends this year.
“It has been around 32 per cent but that’s down from 35 per cent when I took over (in 2016) and 38 per cent in the years before, so the graph is clear,” he added.
Post-Brexit regulations on player transfers came into force in January 2021 after being approved by the FA, Premier League and EFL. But the FA’s hopes to increase the number of England-qualified or homegrown players in Premier League clubs’ official 25-strong squads from eight to 12 was met with resistance from the top flight.
The UK government has committed to review the existing visa system and Southgate spoke to Frazer, the Conservative MP appointed secretary of state for the department of culture, media and sport in February, by video call last Wednesday, 24 hours before announcing his latest squad.
The issue is seen as priority for the FA and is a subject Southgate cares about deeply, having witnessed the declining numbers of homegrown talent in the top flight during his time playing and then managing in club and international football, including as England Under-21s boss.
Manchester City are among the numerous teams looking to sign centre-back Luka Vuskovic, the latest top talent to emerge from Croatia and rated as one of the game’s most exciting prospects.
With fierce competition already developing for the 16-year-old Hajduk Split centre-back, reigning English champions City have made their move — becoming the first of his suitors to submit an offer.
They have proposed a deal worth €12million (£10.5m; $12.8m), comprising an initial €10million plus €2million in potential add-ons. The bid has neither been accepted nor rejected.
Vuskovic has teamed up with the prominent agent Pini Zahavi and is tipped for a bright future.
Antonio Rudiger played in Under Armour boots for the first time in Real Madrid’s 5-2 Champions League victory over Liverpool at Anfield in February after switching from Nike for the first time in his career, reports Mario Cortegana.
The Germany international defender was part of Madrid’s 6-2 aggregate win in that last-16 tie and is not set to face his previous club Chelsea in the quarter-finals next month.
Rudiger’s Nike deal ended in 2022 but he honoured a request to play in its boots at the World Cup in Qatar, where Germany were knocked out in the group stage.
The 30-year-old spoke to Puma and Adidas, and held further talks with Nike before deciding to sign a five-year deal with Under Armour, with bonuses dependent on what he achieves with club and country. He is the second Real Madrid player to leave Nike in 2023, after Brazil forward Vinicius Junior.
Under Armour will collaborate with the charity programme Rudiger is carrying out in Sierra Leone, where his mother was born, and has offered to install a gym at his home.
Rudiger has also been involved in designing his black boots, which have the Sierra Leone flag on one foot and the German flag on the other, as well as the names of his children (Djamal and Aaliyah) and the hashtag #Hustle.
As with Trent Alexander-Arnold in Liverpool, large posters of Rudiger will appear on the streets of Berlin, the centre-back’s home city, as US-based Under Armour attempts to grow in the European football market.
Cameras have been following Newcastle United this season but do not expect an All Or Nothing-style series when the resulting documentary is released on Amazon Prime in the summer.
A joint production between 72 Films and Lorton Entertainment, it is expected to be far punchier and harder-hitting than some of the behind-the-scenes football productions to date.
Lorton Entertainment has also made a forthcoming Boris Becker documentary and Wagatha Christie film about the High Court trial involving Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy, while 72 Films has a series called Jimmy Savile: A British Horror Story about the former BBC presenter and DJ, due out on Netflix in April.
The Newcastle project will address the club’s commercial set-up rather than focus on the dressing room, and there is a desire to ask challenging questions — particularly about the relationship with majority owners PIF, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.
Diego Carlos is expected to make his long-awaited return from injury for Aston Villa in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Bristol Rovers on Friday, reports Gregg Evans.
The Brazilian hasn’t played since August, when he ruptured an Achilles tendon in his second Premier League game following a £26million move from Sevilla.
Head coach Unai Emery included Carlos in the last two matchday squads to help lift his spirits, even though he wasn’t quite ready to play. The hope is that he will be available for selection when the club campaign resumes on April 1 after the current international break, when Villa go to Chelsea as they chase a place in Europe next season.
Villa, who have one of the smallest sides in the division, miss the 6ft 1in (186cm) Carlos’ aerial dominance at set pieces. The 30-year-old’s return will open up the opportunity for Ezri Konsa to be considered as a right-back, a position he has played in the past.
Kyril Louis-Dreyfus briefly swapped the boardroom for the touchline in recent weeks as he attended a five-a-side football tournament in Shoreditch, east London, reports Ali Humayun.
The 25-year-old chairman of Championship side Sunderland watched as a team comprised primarily of his friends from the Swiss city of Zurich played in the Lucozade Sport Cup 2023 at Shoreditch Powerleague — a tournament open to the public — on Friday, March 3.
His team were kitted out in Sunderland’s light-blue away strip and Louis-Dreyfus, once an academy player at Grasshoppers Zurich, carried a holdall bag filled with the club’s tops.
He brought in a last-minute ringer from an opposing group-stage side after a number of his team-mates suffered injuries in their opening matches but could not prevent them being knocked out at the quarter-final stage, missing out on £1,000 in cash and a case of energy drinks.
Five days later, he was pictured sitting alongside Barcelona forward Ousmane Dembele in the directors’ box at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light during his side’s 2-1 Championship loss to promotion-chasing Sheffield United.
Dembele has not played since January owing to injury, and is a close friend of Louis-Dreyfus.
The pair holidayed together in Miami five years ago and France international Dembele also congratulated Sunderland on their promotion to the Championship last season via social media.
Louis-Dreyfus — son of former Marseille owner Robert and heir to a billionaire’s fortune through the family’s Louis-Dreyfus Group empire — became the EFL’s youngest chairman, aged 23, when he first took over control of Sunderland in February 2021.
He upped his stake last week from 51 to 58 per cent after buying shares from minority shareholder Stewart Donald. It is the second time in nine months that Louis-Dreyfus has increased his commitment, along with Uruguayan politician Juan Sartori. The pair now own a combined 91 per cent of Sunderland, who were last a Premier League side in 2017.
Ismaila Sarr is set to leave Watford at the end of the season even if they bounce straight back to the Premier League, writes Adam Leventhal.
The Senegal international forward will only have a year left on his contract by then and the plan is for him to move on from Vicarage Road whatever happens over the final two months of the campaign. Watford, relegated from the Premier League last season, are currently five points off the Championship play-offs in 10th.
Sarr came close to joining Aston Villa last summer in a £25million transfer but the move broke down at the last minute. Although Watford intimated that they may extend his contract, discussions over a new deal have never progressed.
When Watford were previously relegated from the Premier League after the 2019-20 season, both Liverpool and Manchester United considered a move for their record £30million signing. Crystal Palace have also kept a close eye on his situation over the last few seasons.
Sarr, 25, will miss Senegal’s two Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Mozambique this month to receive treatment on the hamstring injury that has seen him miss Watford’s last two matches, against Birmingham and Wigan Athletic.
(Top photos: Getty Images; design: Sam Richardson)
Utah State defensive players who’ve left the Aggies recently — i.e. since the end of the 2022 season — in search of
2024 OU SEC Schedule (speculation)June 14 marks an important day for the Oklahoma football program. That is the day the SEC schedule will be announced. It’s
Lionel Messi is no stranger to Saudi Arabia. More than a decade ago, he visited the country for a friendly match. In subsequent years, he made numerous visits f
PROVO, Utah – Former Corner Canyon High star Harrison Taggart is joining the BYU football program. Taggart announced his commitment