Arsenal Face Yet More Competition for Lille’s Nicolas Pepe as Bayern Munich Join Race

?Arsenal face even more stiff competition to land reported target Nicolas Pepe, with Bayern Munich the latest big European club now believed to be showing interest in the Lille winger ahead of a potential January swoop.

The Gunners are rumoured to have been keeping an eye on Pepe for some time, with reports last month adding Manchester United and Barcelona into the mix. Now, ?Bild have reported that the Bundesliga champions are also vying for the starlet’s signature.

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Formerly of Angers, French-born Pepe joined Lille last summer and scored 13 Ligue 1 goals in a team that was almost relegated, managing a further five assists.

He’s taken another huge leap forward so far this season and already managed six goals and six assists in nine Ligue 1 games from his primary position wide on the right – that includes an important hat-trick in a 3-2 win over Amiens last month.

His combined tally of 12 goals and assists has helped propel Lille to second in the Ligue 1 standings, while the player himself has directly contributed to more goals than Neymar (11), Kylian Mbappe (11), Florian Thauvin (10) and Dimitri Payet (9).

The gossip last month was that Borussia Dortmund, Schalke and Sevilla have already made offers for the 23-year-old. The same is said of Real Sociedad and Lyon, who are claimed to have submitted bids of €20m and €30m respectively to prise Pepe away from Lille.

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Having lost both of their opening Premier League games, Arsenal are in a fine of form under new boss Unai Emery and have won six consecutive league games to move within two points of the top of the table. It may be too early, but some have even put them in title contention.

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REVEALED: 11 European Giants With the Highest Annual Sponsorship Revenues

Sponsorship is a huge money spinner in modern football and is a main reason why clubs can afford to pay top transfer fees and high wages.

A detailed 2018 report on sponsorship revenue by CSM Sport & Entertainment has looked into how much various clubs in Europe’s top five leagues (Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga, Ligue 1) are earning from all their deals.

Here’s a look at the 11 biggest earning clubs through sponsorship…

11. Borussia Dortmund – €80m

71 Sponsorship Deals

Borussia Dortmund are on the fringes when it comes to the elite of European football. The popular German club are certainly prolific with the sponsorship deals, with as many as 71 different partners bringing in €80m to fund their Bundesliga challenge.

10. Juventus – €101m

39 Sponsorship Deals

With AC Milan and Inter falling on hard times, Juventus are out on their own when it comes to leading the way with sponsorship in Italy. Their 39 deals with various partners pay them €101m, which is the ninth highest sponsorship income in Europe.

9. Paris Saint-Germain – €112m

24 Sponsorship Deals

Paris Saint-Germain need to find some way to bring in revenue and balance the books after the €400m combined capture of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe and sponsorship is at least one way to do that. They alone account for almost one third of the collective Ligue 1 figure.

8. Liverpool – €117m

17 Sponsorship Deals

In terms of volume of deals, Liverpool fall way behind many of their English and European rivals but are still one of the richest when it comes to bringing in the cash. Some ardent fans may view a relative lack of partners compared to the rest as the Reds not ‘selling out’.

7. Arsenal – €124m

27 Sponsorship Deals

Arsenal have taken the plunge with a sleeve sponsor this season for the first time, displaying ‘Visit Rwanda’ on their jerseys after striking a deal to promote tourism in the African nation. The Gunners also remains one of the most famous partners of Emirates.

6. Manchester City – €149m

38 Sponsorship Deals

Manchester City are slowly establishing themselves as one of the biggest commercial players in world football after being weened off Sheikh Mansour’s chequebook. The Premier League champions rake in a significant amount of income from Etihad Airways.

5. Chelsea – €154m

18 Sponsorship Deals

Chelsea have been a force in European football ever since Roman Abramovich injected his fortune into the club in 2003. But the benefit of their success has seen them become an attractive vehicle for sponsors, meaning that the revenue will keep on coming.

4. Real Madrid – €178m

19 Sponsorship Deals

It appears to be a case of quality over quantity for Real Madrid, with their 19 sponsorship deals bringing in €178m. It will become apparent that the teams on this list with greater sponsorship revenue have significantly more deals on the go than the reigning European champions.

3. Bayern Munich – €180m

29 Sponsorship Deals

Bayern Munich are the dominant force on and off the field in German football and remain one of the most popular teams in the world, accounting for their high place on this list. Qatar Airways is a notable new addition to the club’s sponsorship portfolio in 2018.

2. Barcelona – €261m

43 Sponsorship Deals

Barcelona are one of only two clubs whose annual sponsorship revenue exceeds €200m, no small feat when considering that puts them way ahead of fierce domestic rivals Real Madrid. Despite their newly found commercialism, the UNICEF logo still appears on their kits.

1. Manchester United – €269m

68 Sponsorship Deals

Manchester United may have struggled on the pitch since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, yet their already strong commercial power has grown significantly during that time thanks to the work of executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, a man gifted in business, if not football.

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Bayern Munich Make €80m-Rated Defender Top January Target as Crisis Point Looms

Reigning Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich have become the latest club to shortlist Inter’s Milan Škriniar following the Bavarians poor start to the new season, according to reports in Italy.

The 23-year-old centre back in quickly becoming a household name across Europe thanks to his commanding displays for the Nerazzurri, as well as with Sampdoria during the 2016/17 campaign.

PSV v Internazionale - UEFA Champions League

A number of Europe’s biggest and best clubs have previously made a move for Škriniar, but Inter have rebuffed every approach for their defensive rock so far, including from Manchester City and Barcelona.

Bayern Munich will become the latest club to test the waters if Tuttosport (via Calciomercato) are to be believed. It is claimed that Inter will demand roughly €80m to part ways with the Slovakia international in January if the German outfit decide to make their move.

The young defender will be seen as a long-term partner for the impressive Niklas Süle once Mats Hummels and Jérôme Boateng are moved on.

A move for Škriniar would see Bayern Munich smash their current transfer record by a long way, something which offers a sign as to how serious the club’s top brass are tacking the current dip in form.

Bayern currently sit four points off the top in the Bundesliga this season, having dropped points in each of their last four games across all competitions, including against Augsburg, Hertha BSC and Borussia Mönchengladbach.

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Head coach Niko Kova? is also feeling the pressure, and results will have to turn around otherwise he could be kicked out of the club just months after his appointment.

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Kopa Kids: 8 Potential Future Winners of France Football’s New Ballon d’Or for Youngsters

The Ballon d’Or has got a new younger brother with France Football introducing the new Kopa Trophy for stars aged 21.

The trophy, named after French footballer Raymond Kopa who won the Ballon d’Or in 1958, has a shortlist of ten starlets in its inaugural year, including  Kylian Mbappe, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Christian Pulisic.

An extra twist on the trophy (which differentiates it from the journalist decided Golden Boy award) is that the winner is voted for by former Ballon d’Or winners like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

World Cup winning sensation Mbappe looks a shoo-in for this year’s award, so we are looking ahead at some players who could lift the trophy in the years to come. Here are eight of the next, next big things…

8. Billy Gilmour (Chelsea)

You might not have heard of Billy Gilmour yet, but chances are you’ll know his name sooner rather than later.

An outstanding talent in the Chelsea youth system, Gilmour made the switch from Rangers to Chelsea in the summer of 2017, despite links to Bayern Munich and Barcelona, and hasn’t looked backed since. The 17-year-old midfielder has now been promoted to the Blues’ U23s, where he has scored twice, and set up three for the this season, as he continues to punch above his weight. 

He has even pushed himself in the Scotland youth setup, winning the Revelation of the Tournament award at the Toulon Tournament at the age of 16. He has since been capped at Under-21 level and described as potentially “a very, very good player,” by Scottish FA performance director Malky Mackay

On his plans for joining world football’s elite, Gilmour told BBC Sport in September: “If someone is better than me, I want to be better than them. I’ve always had a winning mentality and I hate losing, so when I see someone doing better, I need to match them.”

7. Jann-Fiette Arp (Hamburg)

Jann-Fiete Arp may play in Germany’s second tier, but the young German looks destined for the top sooner rather than later.

Arp was a wanted man in the summer, but  decided to stay at Hamburg, despite interest from Bayern Munich and Chelsea. 

Whilst not the fastest, Arp is usually the strongest and scored seven times in five appearances for the U19s last season before progressing into the first team, where he made 18 outings. At international level he finished second top scorer at the Under-17 Euros in 2017, with seven goals. 

6. Kangin Lee (Valencia)

Not many 17-year-olds have an €80m buyout clause, but Kangin Lee is no ordinary teenager.

Lee is one of the great prospects of Asian football and is already a bonafide TV star in his home country of South Korea, having previously appeared as part of a team of youngsters playing football on a show called ‘Shoot Dori’, whilst being coached by Korean celebrities. 

Even then he was too good for his seven-year-old compatriots, dazzling with impressive footwork and speed. Now after being promoted to the Valencia first team, a starring role at the Mestalla surely beckons for the attacking midfielder.

Lee admits it would be a dream to finally make his debut for the club he has been at since he was 10.

“Ever since I arrived at the club my dream was to play at Mestalla, be part of the first team and now I am so happy to be here,” Lee said, as quoted by AS .  

5. Vincius Junior (Real Madrid)

Dubbed ‘the next Neymar’ this Brazilian trickster had a €30m buyout clause from the age of 16, which tells you all you need to know about his burgeoning potential. 

Having officially completed his move to Real Madrid in the summer, after a €45m switch from Flamengo in Brazil, Vincius Junior has been tipped to make it to the top of the footballing ladder. 

His transfer at the time made him the second-most expensive Brazilian in history, behind only Neymar’s  world-record shattering transfer to Paris Saint-Germain. 

After impressing in Real’s B team, the Brazilian made his first team debut in the 0-0 draw with city rivals Atletico and will likely get more chances in attack in the coming months, with Karim Benzema and Los Blancos’ established attackers somewhat out of form.

4. Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich)

An incredible talent, and the first on this list to be born after the turn of the millennium, Alphonso Davies has already secured a big money move to Bayern Munich after lighting up MLS with Vancouver Whitecaps. 

The move could become a record breaking deal in MLS history, which shows how highly regarded the Canadian winger is as he continues his rapid climb up the football ladder. 

Currently 17, he has already featured 63 times for the Whitecaps, making his debut at the tender age of 15. 

A strong and direct winger, Davies – who was born in Ghana to parents of Liberian descent – was the first player born after 2000 to score at a senior international tournament, when he claimed the Golden Boot for adopted nation Canada in last year’s Gold Cup.

Davies will look to guide the Whitecaps to the MLS playoffs before showcasing what he can do on the European stage with Bayern in the Bundesliga.

3. Phil Foden (Man City)

Phil Foden broke into the illustrious midfield setup at Premier League winners Manchester City  last season and shows no sign of stopping his rapid progression that has seen him become one of City’s brightest prospects.

Having scored his first professional goal against Oxford United in the Carabao Cup last month, Foden showed what his game is all about. It’s direct, skilful and pleasing on the eye, with Foden possessing a wonderful passing range and movement. 

Already drawing comparisons to teammate Kevin de Bruyne, Foden looks destined to become a future star under Pep Guardiola’s watchful eye.  

Guardiola knows Foden has a big future at the Etihad. 

Speaking about Foden after his starring role against Oxford United, Guardiola said, as quoted by the Telegraph: “We are so satisfied Phil’s part of the group. He arrived last season and we showed him he was special and that’s why we decided not to buy any attacking midfielders, or people in that position, because we have Phil.” 

2. Matthijs de Ligt (Ajax)

Ajax’s second youngest ever goalscorer, only behind Clarence Seedorf, Matthijs De Ligt has earned rave reviews across Europe as one of the continent’s most promising young defensive talents. 

A regular starter for Ajax already, De Ligt has already earned the club’s prestigious Talent of the Year award and was named in the Europa League team of the tournament in the 2016/17 season at the age of 17. 

De Ligt combines good awareness of the game with brilliant physical attributes, making him one of the strongest defenders in Europe.  

Speaking to De Telegraaf  Netherlands captain Virgil Van Dijk called De Ligt, “an excellent player, [who is] already mature.”

The 19-year-old has attracted interest from many big clubs in Europe, from Barcelona to the Premier League and will likely move on in a transfer window sooner rather than later. 

1. Jadon Sancho (Dortmund)

Quite possibly the one that got away for Man City, Jadon Sancho took the bold step of turning down the Citizens in favour of a move abroad, and it has paid dividends for the winger’s career. 

The 18-year-old Englishman moved to the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund in 2017 and has been a star in their strong start to the 2018/19 season, earning a call up to the England squad and topping the assist charts across Europe. 

As recently as this week, he has also been linked with a massive £100m pound move to some of the Premier League’s top sides, while it was revealed that City may have a buyback agreement.

If he continues to make a good impression, there is no limit to what the Londoner could achieve, both internationally and domestically.  

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Lothar Matthaus Hits Out at ‘Selfish’ And ‘Disrespectful’ Bayern Munich Quartet

Former Germany captain Lothar Matthaus has criticised Bayern Munich quartet Robert Lewandowski, Arjen Robben, James Rodriguez, and Franck Ribery following their poor start to the season.

Manager Niko Kovac, who succeeded Jupp Heynckes in the summer, has seen his position come under increasing pressure after four games without a win in all competitions. 

The German champions recently suffered a 3-0 defeat at home to Borussia Monchengladbach which leaves them sixth in the Bundesliga table and four points off current leaders Borussia Dortmund

FC Bayern Muenchen v Borussia Moenchengladbach - Bundesliga

However, Bayern legend Matthaus backed the under-fire boss as he hit out at the club’s experienced stars for being ‘selfish’ and ‘disrespectful’. 

“He’s [Kovac] an ambitious guy with a plan,” Matthaus told Blick, as quoted by Goal. “He is the right man to turn things around. The responsibility is more club management and players.

“Players like J?ames, and Lewandowski, Robben and Ribery – some stars are selfish and disrespectful to coaches, club, and team-mates. This must stop.

“Uli Hoeness has to give up sayings like that. He and [sports director] Hasan Salihamidzic need to make it clear to players that they need to change their negative body language.”

FC Bayern Muenchen v Ajax - UEFA Champions League Group E

The criticised quartet have featured regularly under Kovac this season, with striker Robert Lewandowski netting eight goals from ten matches in all competitions, including three strikes in the Bundesliga.

After the international break, Kovac’s side will travel to Wolfsburg with a trip to Greece three days later to take on AEK Athens in the Champions League. 

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