Arsenal linked with stunning move for former goalkeeper

Arsenal are considering a move to re-sign goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny from Juventus as they prepare to bid farewell to Aaron Ramsdale, a report has claimed.

Ramsdale lost his spot in the starting lineup to on-loan stopper David Raya early in the season and, with Arsenal set to sign the Golden Glove winner permanently this summer, Ramsdale is expected to leave in search of first-team football.

According to the Evening Standard, Arsenal want a homegrown goalkeeper to replace Ramsdale and help them meet squad registration requirements, and that has seen them express an interest in recruiting Szczesny.

Szczesny, now 34, joined Arsenal’s youth setup back in 2006 and therefore meets the homegrown requirements, and his future at Juventus is increasingly uncertain as the Serie A giants plot a move for Monza’s Michele Di Gregorio.

Just whether Szczesny, whose contract still has one year left to run, would be prepared to return to the Emirates as cover for Raya is currently unclear, and so Arsenal are looking at a handful of other options.

Brighton & Hove Albion’s Jason Steele is also under consideration, while Ajax’s Diant Ramaj, who would not meet homegrown requirements, is admired by those in charge at Arsenal.

Aaron RamsdaleAaron Ramsdale

Ramsdale is expected to leave Arsenal / Copa/GettyImages

Arsenal are wary of losing a number of homegrown talents this summer. 90min understands striker Eddie Nketiah could be made available if a new striker is signed, while Emile Smith Rowe and Reiss Nelson both face uncertain futures.

With Ramsdale also expected to leave – Newcastle United are reportedly leading the race to sign the goalkeeper – Arsenal will need more players nurtured in England to meet the Premier League’s squad registration rules.

Teams are required to register a minimum of eight homegrown players in their squads and lose one space in their 25-player squad for each homegrown role they fail to fill.

Raya is eligible after coming through the Blackburn academy, as is backup stopper Karl Hein. Ben White, Declan Rice and Bukayo Saka also count as homegrown talents.

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The 7 best players in the Champions League semi-finals – ranked

The 2023/24 Champions League semi-finals were every bit as exciting, dramatic and shocking as we were hoping they would be.

Favourites Real Madrid left it late to secure their place in the showpiece event at Wembley Stadium on Wednesday night, while underdogs Borussia Dortmund shockingly swept aside Paris Saint-Germain 2-0 on aggregate, despite the Ligue 1 giants hitting the post 10 times over the two semi-final legs.

And after all that fun, here’s the seven best performing players of the round.

Eric DierEric Dier

Played well / Clive Brunskill/GettyImages

If you had’ve told a Tottenham fan that Eric Dier was going to be one of the best performing players in this season’s Champions League semi-finals their jaw probably would’ve hit the floor.

Partly because Tottenham didn’t even qualify for the tournament, but mainly because Dier had been rather awful in recent months for the north London club.

In May 2024 in the Champions League semi-finals, however, the centre-back was actually bloody brilliant against Real Madrid. Dier put his body on the line on countless occasions across the two legs – his block to deny Brahim Diaz being particularly impressive – and was rather unfortunate to be on the losing side with Bayern.

Nuno Mendes, Jadon SanchoNuno Mendes, Jadon Sancho

Starred in the first leg / Eurasia Sport Images/GettyImages

Another player who performed surprisingly well in the semi-finals this season was Jadon Sancho.

After being essentially kicked out of Manchester by Erik ten Hag, Sancho had actually continued to struggle for form since his loan move back to Borussia Dortmund up until last week.

Then 2020 Sancho returned.

The wide forward was in mesmeric form for BVB in the first leg against PSG, completing a ridiculous 12 dribbles in the win at the Signal Iduna Park.

Toni KroosToni Kroos

Legendary midfielder / Quality Sport Images/GettyImages

With 95% passing accuracy, and an inch perfect assist to his name, it’s fair to say that Toni Kroos played quite well in this season’s Champions League semi-finals.

The German was the metronome at the heart of Madrid’s midfield against Bayern, keeping his team on top by retaining possession expertly throughout both legs.

Kylian Mbappé, Nico SchlotterbeckKylian Mbappé, Nico Schlotterbeck

Top class / Lionel Hahn/GettyImages

Keeping a clean sheet when up against Kylian Mbappe is pretty damn impressive.

Keeping two is also unheard.

That’s exactly what Nico Schlotterbeck helped Borussia Dortmund do in the semi-finals, holding his own against some of the best forwards in world football throughout the 180 minutes of gruelling action.

JoseluJoselu

Surprise hero / Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/GettyImages

From Stoke City flop to Real Madrid hero.

That is not a normal career path.

And yet, here’s Joselu – the man who once played horribly for Stoke City now scoring a brace to see Real Madrid through to a UEFA Champions League final.

It’s a strange world that we live in.

Mats HummelsMats Hummels

Match winner / Jean Catuffe/GettyImages

At 35 years old, Mats Hummels may have just put in the two best performances of his long career.

Hummels was utterly exceptional at the heart of Dortmund’s defence throughout the two legs, earning player of the match plaudits in both games.

He was also pretty effective in the final third too, netting the only goal of the second leg to secure Dortmund’s place in the final.

Vinicius Jr.Vinicius Jr.

World class / David Ramos/GettyImages

Real Madrid’s big game player.

Considering how good Real Madrid are and how many big games they play in, that’s quite the tag to bestow on Vinicius Junior, but bah gawd has he earned it.

The wide forward once again came up trumps for Los Blancos when they needed him the most, provided two goals in the first leg and making mincemeat of Joshua Kimmich in the second leg to help his side through to yet another final.

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The world’s highest paid footballers

As much as fans would like to think otherwise, elite modern football is unashamedly centred around cold, hard and often dirty cash.

With transfer fees rising exponentially, player wages skyrocketing and lucrative brand deals reaching new peaks, exorbitant sums of money are now the beating black heart of the beautiful game.

The likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe are, rather unsurprisingly, among the highest earning players across the world, but even football’s mediocre talents seem to earn a small fortune on a weekly basis these days.

Here are football’s biggest earners around the world.

*All salary data courtesy of Capology

Premier League

Kevin De BruyneKevin De Bruyne

Man City boast some big earners / Matt McNulty/GettyImages

Branded as the ‘best league in the world’, logic would suggest the Premier League also boasts the highest earners. That’s not strictly true these days, although the English top flight does have the highest average wage of any European league – bettered only by the Saudi Pro League.

Given their exceptional wealth, it’s hardly surprising that Manchester City have the highest paid player in the division on their roster. That’s Kevin De Bruyne (£400,000 p/w), whose incredible quality justifiably sets him out from the rest of the Premier League, although he is closely followed by his merciless teammate Erling Haaland (£375,000 p/w).

Rather unbelievably given their recent performances, the Manchester United duo of Casemiro (£350,000 p/w) and Raphael Varane (£340,000 p/w) are in the top five Premier League earners, while Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah sits joint third with a weekly wage of £350,000.

La Liga

Frenkie De JongFrenkie De Jong

De Jong has drained Barca’s finances / Pedro Salado/GettyImages

La Liga frequently boasted the highest earners in world football during the days when Ronaldo, Messi and Neymar all represented the division, but wages don’t reach quite as high now. Having said that, there are still some opulent footballers in the Spanish top flight.

The biggest earner in Spain is Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong, who earns £620,000 per week in Catalonia. The club’s financial position makes paying the Dutch international such sums a significant problem and it’s one of the reasons he is often linked with a move away from Barca in every transfer window.

Barca also boast the second top earner in Robert Lewandowski (£449,000 p/w), another talented star who takes up a huge chunk of their wage bill, but it’s Real Madrid who make up the rest of the top five.

The veterans in Real’s squad have been rewarded for their years of service, with Toni Kroos earning £404,000 per week and Luka Modric bringing home £362,000 per week. Defender David Alaba also does pretty well for himself, earning £373,000 on a weekly basis.

Bundesliga

Harry KaneHarry Kane

Kane made the lucrative move to Bayern Munich in 2023 / Luciano Lima/GettyImages

Unsurprisingly, it’s England captain Harry Kane who leads the way in the Bundesliga. The acquisition of the former Tottenham forward was seen as a major coup for German football, with the prolific centre-forward rewarded with a wage of £414,000 every seven days.

Bayern Munich actually employ the 11 highest earners in the German top flight, with club legends Manuel Neuer (£348,000 p/w) and Thomas Muller (£348,000 p/w) closest to Kane.

It’s quite a significant drop off to the highest paid player that doesn’t don the red and white of Bayern, with Borussia Dortmund forward Sebastien Haller (£182,000 p/w) the leading money-maker outside of Munich.

Serie A

Dusan VlahovicDusan Vlahovic

Vlahovic is Serie A’s highest-paid player / Nicolò Campo/GettyImages

Serie A once boasted some of the world’s elite stars and richest footballers, but those years have long passed. It speaks volumes that Juventus forward Dusan Vlahovic earns more than any other player in Italy (£215,000), closely followed by Napoli star Victor Osimhen (£212,000) – although he’s likely to be leaving the league this summer.

Both Juventus and Inter dominate Serie A when it comes to finances, with Osimhen the only player not to play for those clubs in the league’s top ten earners. Wojciech Szczesny (£199,000 p/w) and Alex Sandro (£184,000 p/w) are somewhat surprisingly the division’s third and fourth highest paid stars.

Ligue 1

Kylian MbappeKylian Mbappe

Kylian Mbappe earns a fortune in France / BSR Agency/GettyImages

It’s not tough to guess who earns the most in Ligue 1, although he’s extremely unlikely to be making a living in France next season. It is, of course, Kylian Mbappe we refer to, with the Paris Saint-Germain superstar taking home an astonishing £1.19m every week. That’s before you even consider his sponsorship deals and performance bonuses.

It’s a mighty old drop down to Ligue 1’s second highest paid player in Ousmane Dembele, with the former Barcelona star making a comparatively measly £331,000 per week. Lucas Hernandez is not too far behind, taking home approximately £16,000 less than Dembele every week.

You have to look all the way down to the 14th highest earner in Ligue 1 to find a player who doesn’t play for PSG, with sharpshooter Wissam Ben Yedder of Monaco earning £129,000 every week. To put that into context, Mbappe earns nine times more than him.

Al-Nassr v Al Wehda - Saudi Pro LeagueAl-Nassr v Al Wehda - Saudi Pro League

It’s ridiculous how much Ronaldo earns / Yasser Bakhsh/GettyImages

Mbappe’s wages look pretty pathetic in comparison to some of the best paid professionals in the new financial powerhouse of modern football – the Saudi Pro League. As you may have assumed, Ronaldo earns more than any other player in world football at Al Nassr with a weekly wage of £3.31m. That’s simply insane.

A little further behind him are Al Hilal’s Neymar and Al Ittihad’s Karim Benzema (£1.66m p/w each), while even Riyad Mahrez is better paid than any footballer in Europe bar Mbappe, claiming £865,000 every seven days.

There are some big earners in Major League Soccer in the United States, but they are nowhere near the levels of the Saudi Pro League. Eight-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi is the leading money-maker in North America, but his salary of £185,000 pales in comparison to his old foe Ronaldo.

Lionel MessiLionel Messi

It’s no surprise that companies want a piece of Lionel Messi / Maddie Meyer/GettyImages

This is where things get even more complicated, with footballers, much like the majority of athletes, earning vast sums for their activities off the pitch as well as on it. However, thanks to Forbes, we can see some off the biggest off-field earners in world football.

Ronaldo and Messi lead the way when it comes to this particular category, with the Argentine edging this financial battle by earning £56m per year off the field in addition to his base salary. In contrast, his Portuguese rival brings home a pretty handsome £48m annually.

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50 most valuable football clubs in the world – ranked

Manchester United have been dubbed the most valuable club in world football with a total estimated worth of $6.2bn, ahead of Real Madrid, Barcelona and domestic rivals Liverpool.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe agreed to purchase an initial 25% for $1.3bn last December, increasing to 29% over time for an additional $300m. That deal valued the whole club at $5.5bn, which suggests his investment may already be profitable – not that he’s in it for the money, by his own admission.

Madrid are valued at $6.06bn, Barcelona at $5.28bn and Liverpool at $5.11bn. The presence of Manchester City (sixth, $4.75bn), Arsenal (eighth, $3.91bn), Tottenham Hotspur (ninth, $3.49bn) and Chelsea (tenth, $3.47bn) ensures that the Premier League dominates the top ten with six clubs.

After the top comes a major drop off to Juventus in 11th with a valuation of $1.77bn.

A huge number of Major League Soccer sides feature in the top 50, despite clubs not enjoying vast revenue streams and it not being considered a leading competition. Los Angeles FC, for example, come in at 15th and outrank 2023 UEFA Champions League finalists Inter. Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami have also been given a value in excess of $1bn, despite only debuting in 2020.

Lionel MessiLionel Messi

20 of the 29 Major League Soccer clubs appear in the world’s top 50 / Simon M Bruty/GettyImages

The figures come from Sportico, calculating a club’s value based on revenue figures, “team specific multipliers” such as historical sales, market, brand strength, on-field performance – both historic and current, the terms of facility leases, debt and expected future club and league economics. That could explains why MLS clubs are ranked so highly, with many enjoying new modern stadiums, operating in a cost control model and protected from no threat of relegation.

Forbes publishes a similar but more widely known annual list ranking the value of clubs, while the Deloitte Football Money League ranks teams based on their yearly revenue. The most recent Forbes list released just under 12 months ago put Real Madrid first on $6.07bn.

Rank

Club

League

Value

1

Manchester United

Premier League

$6.2bn

2

Real Madrid

La Liga

$6.06bn

3

Barcelona

La Liga

$5.28bn

4

Liverpool

Premier League

$5.11bn

5

Bayern Munich

Bundesliga

$4.80bn

6

Manchester City

Premier League

$4.75bn

7

Paris Saint-Germain

Ligue 1

$4.05bn

8

Arsenal

Premier League

$3.91bn

9

Tottenham Hotspur

Premier League

$3.49bn

10

Chelsea

Premier League

$3.47bn

11

Juventus

Serie A

$1.77bn

12

Borussia Dortmund

Bundesliga

$1.64bn

13

Atletico Madrid

La Liga

$1.62bn

14

AC Milan

Serie A

$1.20bn

15

Los Angeles FC

MLS

$1.15bn

16

Inter

Serie A

$1.06bn

17

Atlanta United

MLS

$1.05bn

18

Inter Miami

MLS

$1.02bn

19

LA Galaxy

MLS

$1.00bn

20

New York City FC

MLS

$840m

21

Austin FC

MLS

$800m

22

Seattle Sounders

MLS

$795m

23

Olympique Lyon

Ligue 1

$780m

24

AS Roma

Serie A

$770m

25

Club America

Liga MX

$750m

26

Ajax

Eredivisie

$740m

27

West Ham United

Premier League

$725m

28

Toronto FC

MLS

$725m

29

D.C. United

MLS

$720m

30

Portland Timbers

MLS

$715m

31

CD Guadalajara

Liga MX

$710m

32

Newcastle United

Premier League

$700m

33

SSC Napoli

Serie A

$690m

34

Philadelphia Union

MLS

$685m

35

SL Benfica

Primeira Liga

$675m

36

Charlotte FC

MLS

$655m

37

Columbus Crew

MLS

$650m

38

FC Cincinnati

MLS

$645m

39

Minnesota United

MLS

$640m

40

Nashville SC

MLS

$635m

41

Sporting Kansas City

MLS

$630m

42

New York Red Bulls

MLS

$615m

43

RB Leipzig

Bundesliga

$610m

44

Aston Villa

Premier Leage

$600m

45

Atalanta

Serie A

$595m

46

Eintracht Frankfurt

Bundesliga

$580m

47

CR Flamengo

Brasileiro

$570m

48

CF Monterrey

Liga MX

$565m

49

San Jose Earthquakes

MLS

$560m

50

Houston Dynamo

MLS

$550m

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Bayer Leverkusen vs Roma: Preview, lineups and predictions

Bayer Leverkusen will look to book their spot in the Europa League final and maintain their unbeaten record on Thursday night when they face Roma in the second leg of their semi-final.

Xabi Alonso’s side have already been crowned Bundesliga champions this season and find themselves in the DFB Pokal final without losing a single match. They are still on course for a historic treble and boast a 2-0 lead from the first leg in Rome last week thanks to goals from Florian Wirtz and Robert Andrich.

Roma have seen a dramatic upturn in form since Jose Mourinho was replaced by Daniele De Rossi on the touchline, although they are now without a win in three matches. They will have to do what no other team has managed this season and beat Leverkusen at the BayArena this Thursday, while also overturning a two-goal deficit.

Here is 90min’s guide to Bayer Leverkusen vs Roma in the Europa League.

Bayer Leverkusen vs Roma H2H Record (Last Five Games)

Current form (all competitions)

Bayer Leverkusen

Roma

Eintracht Frankfurt 1-5 Bayer Leverkusen – 05/05/24

Roma 1-1 Juventus – 05/05/24

Roma 0-2 Bayer Leverkusen – 02/05/24

Roma 0-2 Bayer Leverkusen – 02/05/24

Bayer Leverkusen 2-2 Stuttgart – 27/04/24

Napoli 2-2 Roma – 28/04/24

Borussia Dortmund 1-1 Bayer Leverkusen – 21/04/24

Udinese 1-2 Roma – 25/04/24

West Ham 1-1 Bayer Leverkusen – 18/04/24

Roma 1-3 Bologna – 22/04/24

Florian WirtzFlorian Wirtz

Leverkusen have no injury concerns ahead of the upcoming clash / Image Photo Agency/GettyImages

Luck has often shone on Bayer Leverkusen this season and it appears to have done so once more ahead of their second leg against Roma, with Alonso having no major fitness concerns to contend with.

Leverkusen were able to rest some players during their 5-1 demolition of Eintracht Frankfurt at the weekend, with the likes of Wirtz and Alejandro Grimaldo given days off and Victor Boniface and Jeremie Frimpong only used from the bench.

Bayer Leverkusen predicted lineup vs Roma (3-4-2-1): Kovar; Tapsoba, Tah, Hincapie; Frimpong, Andrich, Xhaka, Grimaldo; Wirtz, Adli; Boniface.

Paulo DybalaPaulo Dybala

Paulo Dybala is an injury doubt for the trip to Germany / Danilo Di Giovanni/GettyImages

Roma also have a clean bill of health heading to Leverkusen, although there were concerns after Paulo Dybala was substituted at half-time against his former employers Juventus at the weekend. However, the Argentine should be fit enough to feature.

De Rossi didn’t rest his key attackers against the Old Lady during the 1-1 draw on Sunday, although he did heavily rotate his backline. Romelu Lukaku, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Dybala are among the stars who could prove decisive at the BayArena.

Roma predicted lineup vs Bayer Leverkusen (4-3-3): Svilar; Karsdorp, Mancini, Smalling, Spinazzola; Cristante, Paredes, Pellegrini; Dybala, Lukaku, El Shaarawy.

Given Leverkusen’s remarkable record this season, it would be foolish to bet on a Roma win here. The Italian side do have the capacity to spring a surprise, but they’re unlikely to become the first conquerors of the German champions this season.

Leverkusen’s ability to bench key players at the weekend has made Alonso’s life much simpler and his well-rested side should claim yet another victory on home soil this Thursday.

Prediction: Bayer Leverkusen 3-1 Roma (5-1 on aggregate)

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