Chris Coleman has resigned from his position as Wales manager amid speculation he is set to take over at Championship club Sunderland.
Coleman’s reputation sky-rocketed after leading Wales – previously without a major tournament appearance since 1958 – to the Euro 2016 semi-finals, but he was unable to follow that up with qualification for next year’s World Cup in Russia.
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Wales were beaten by Republic of Ireland in their crucial final match of the qualifying campaign, and subsequent friendlies against France and Panama have proven to be Coleman’s last matches in charge.
Sunderland, who are bottom of England’s second tier following their relegation from the Premier League last season, have been without a manager since sacking Simon Grayson in October.
Football Association of Wales (FAW) chief executive Jonathan Ford added fuel to talk that Coleman will become Sunderland boss by confirming the 47-year-old’s intention to return to club management.
“We are extremely disappointed to see Chris’ tenure as Wales manager come to an end,” Ford said of the former Fulham, Coventry City and Real Sociedad coach.
“The FAW and Wales as a nation will be eternally grateful for the job he has done over the last six years as national team manager, from travelling the length and breadth of Wales outside of the media spotlight to talk to players and supporters, to guiding us to the semi-finals of the European Championships.
“We wish Chris the very best of luck for the future as he returns to club management, a desire for which he has always been honest and open about.”
Coleman would be the Black Cats’ fifth permanent manager since March 2015.
Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde has opened the door for a pursuit of Atletico Madrid star Antoine Griezmann.
Reports in France have claimed the 26-year-old has agreed a deal in principle to join the La Liga leaders next year for a fee in the region of €90 million.
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Atletico midfielder Koke said on Thursday his team-mate was happy at the club but indicated he should move on if he no longer feels completely committed.
Valverde insists the talk is simply a rumour at present, much like suggestions of Real Madrid’s interest in Neymar, but stopped short of ruling out a bid in future.
Asked whether Griezmann to Barcelona or Neymar to Madrid were the most likely, he told a news conference: “Neither. Rumours are rumours.”
He then continued on Griezmann: “He is a great player and every time players are linked with Barcelona, they are great players.
“But I’m happy with the ones I have and, in the future, we’ll see.”
All back together at last in training! pic.twitter.com/rcVG2hjJJC
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) November 16, 2017
Valverde would also not confirm whether Denis Suarez will stay at Barca beyond the next transfer window.
The midfielder has been linked with the likes of Napoli, having only made two starts in the league this season.
Valverde says Suarez remains in his plans but is not ruling out business of any kind in January.
The coach explained: “He is one more player in the squad. It’s true he’s played in some games and not others but I’m counting on him for the matches. It then depends on his form and the circumstances.
“He’s fine. I can’t comment on one newspaper story or another.
“The club is open to all kinds of possibilities. Not only Barca – any club. We value what we have but we are not going to close doors.”
However, Valverde suggested they would not look to sign another centre-back despite Javier Mascherano having been ruled out for a month with a hamstring injury.
“You can never predict injuries,” he said. “We have four good centre-backs. We trust everyone: [Gerard] Pique, [Samuel] Umtiti and, of course, [Thomas] Vermaelen. We have the B team, too.”
Emil Forsberg was dismissive of reports Manchester United are ready to make a move for him as he played a starring role in Sweden’s victory over Italy last week.
“I read about it in the newspaper, but my focus is on RB Leipzig,” the winger insisted after it was said Jose Mourinho was in the stands to cast an eye over him.
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Another strong campaign with his current team may be top priority, but after seeing his hopes of a move shut down by the Bundesliga side in the summer, his concentration may soon stray from matters in Saxony as his displays attract more attention.
Europe’s more established top sides have been circling Forsberg since January, but RB Leipzig’s refusal to entertain the notion of him leaving during the close season prompted his agent to accuse the “arrogant” club of “destroying his dreams”.
After a summer of links to AC Milan, Roma and Liverpool, the emergence of United’s interest could add a new spark to his ambitions of playing at the next level. Contracted to the club until 2022, it will take a substantial effort to pry him away from RB, especially with fellow star Naby Keita on his way to Liverpool next summer, but some top sides will consider him worth it.
The 26-year-old has become a treasure in his homeland and has taken over as the key player in the wake of Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s retirement from the national team and his man of the match display in the 1-0 win over Italy has improved his stature even further.
It is a reputation Forsberg has been building since he followed in his father’s footsteps in becoming a star player for his hometown team Sundsvall, making his debut in the second tier at the age of 17. He was crucial in their promotion to the Allsvenskan and keeping them up, earning a step up to Malmo.
Two years and two league titles later, he left as the top performer to join Leipzig in the 2. Bundesliga and immediately established himself as a pivotal player in their quick rise to one of the strongest sides in the country.
His tally of 19 assists in his and RB Leipzig’s debut campaign in the Bundesliga last season was by far the highest in the division and only one player in the top flight created more chances, while he added eight goals to the equation.
Forsberg is more than goals and assists, though. A quick, skilful left-sided midfielder who threatens from the inside channels with his passes and dribbles, he injects pace into Leipzig’s attacks and links up well with Keita, Timo Werner & Co.
A huge asset for Forsberg’s game is his first touch. He can stop a long, high pass dead immediately if needed, but the way he seamlessly moves the ball into space with it earns him a great deal more time on it.
He has superb technical ability, but when he combines with his reading of the game, it is as if he is two steps ahead of opponents as he heads for goal or picks out a team-mate.
“He’s so damn cool, so cool,” 83-time Sweden international Kennet Andersson said. “A real top player. World class, actually.”
A return of three goals and two assists from 14 games in all competitions this term show a bit of a drop after a summer full of transfer speculation, but he continues to carve out opportunities and his strikes against Monaco and Porto in the Champions League were vital in securing points.
“Of course, it’s hard to reach last season’s level again, both [Forsberg and Keita] have been hyped enormously, then the transfer stories came in the summer and the boys have put themselves under enormous pressure again,” coach Ralph Hasenhuttl said recently.
He has impressed several times this season as he did against Italy, but needs to find consistency again as his side look to close the four point gap on league leaders Bayern Munich and progress in Europe.
“This club wants to be the best, and I want to be the best,” he said when he signed a contract extension earlier this year, and as a bit of a late bloomer, he may have some way to go to be the ultimate.
However, Sweden’s star man has shown he deserves the attention of Europe’s top sides as the January transfer window approaches.
With the likes of Man Utd, Liverpool and Roma circling, Leipzig may have to let him go or risk destroying his dreams again.
Marouane Fellaini’s agent has approached Juventus over a possible move, but the Serie A champions are not interested in signing him, Goal understands.
The Belgium international’s contract with United expires at the end of the season and the midfielder recently rejected an offer to extend the deal.
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United are not giving up on the 29-year-old, however, and have no interest in selling him in January.
Fellaini has become a regular under Jose Mourinho, scoring four goals from nine games in all competitions this term, and the manager is likely to put pressure on the club to ensure he stays.
That has not stopped the former Everton man from beginning his search for a new club and sees Turin as a possible destination.
Sources with the Italian side have told Goal that Fellaini’s representative has discussed a potential deal, but has been knocked back as the Turin side are targeting other options.
Massimiliano Allegri’s side are looking to add to their midfield in the near future, but they have no plans of going for Fellaini and are are instead prioritising Emre Can and 22-year-old Leon Goretzka – both of whom are also out of contract at the end of the season.
Although Juve director Giuseppe Marotta recently distanced the club from making a January move for Liverpool’s Can, the Bianconeri will try to lure him away on a free signing in the summer.
If the Germany international renews his contract at Anfield, they will make a push to snap up Schalke star and Bayern Munich target Goretzka.
In-form Lyon star Nabil Fekir will not leave the club in January, according to the club’s president Jean-Michel Aulas.
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Fekir, 24, has caught the eye after scoring 11 goals in as many Ligue 1 games so far this season, while also registering three assists.
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The attacking midfielder is thriving after being named Lyon’s captain at the start of the season and is reportedly on Arsenal’s radar as a result.
However, Lyon chief Aulas has ruled out selling Fekir, who has also been linked with Barcelona and Real Madrid, during the winter transfer window, telling SFR Sport: “Of course [he will stay in January], and nothing says he’ll leave at the end of the season.
“He’s under contract, he’s happy in Lyon.
“He’s enjoying a period of success football-wise, but also in terms of management as he’s captain of an Olympique Lyonnais that has been able to get itself back on track, and it’s also thanks to him.”
You won’t see a better goal this weekend than this astonishing halfway line effort from Lyon’s Nabil Fekir pic.twitter.com/3ssokfoOAI
— Goal (@goal) August 19, 2017
Aulas also says there is a “very good chance” Fekir, who featured for France during the international break, will remain at Les Gones in 2018/19 as well.
“Of course, he has a very good chance of being [at] Lyonnais,” Aulas added. “He’s a symbol.
“In between times, there will be the World Cup. If France is in the final, which I hope for, and Nabil scores the goal that makes France world champions, of course he’ll get offers.
“But that said, we’re going to do everything for Nabil to stay and I think he wants to stay.”
A switch to Arsenal would see Fekir reunite with Alexandre Lacazette, who left Lyon to for the Emirates Stadium in a big-money move last summer.