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LIVE Transfer Talk: Real Madrid, Liverpool join Barcelona in eyeing Bayer Leverkusen’s Florian Wirtz

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The January transfer window is closed around Europe, but teams are looking ahead to the summer and there’s plenty of gossip swirling around. Transfer Talk brings you all the latest buzz on rumours, comings, goings and, of course, done deals!

The race to sign Bayer Leverkusen’s Florian Wirtz is heating up with Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Liverpool eyeing the midfielder, according to Fabrizio Romano.

The 19-year-old Germany international has previously been linked with a potential move to Barcelona, but the other two European giants are keen on his signature in what is described as an open race.

Xabi Alonso’s side remain confident that Wirtz won’t look to force a move away from the BayArena in the summer, amid belief that he is happy to remain for at least another season. He contracted at the Bundesliga club until 2027.

He has been in excellent form for the Bundesliga side since returning from injury, contributing to eight goals in 13 games across all competitions, and he played 84 minutes as Leverkusen enjoyed a 2-1 league win over Bayern Munich on Sunday.

– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)

15.43 GMT: Juventus midfielder Adrien Rabiot will be a free agent this summer if he does not sign a new contract at Juventus. Could a move to Anfield be in the France international’s future?

Gab & Juls debate whether Adrien Rabiot should leave Juventus or sign a new contract with the club.

14.58 GMT: Sergio Aguero believes there is a 50% chance that his friend and former teammate, Lionel Messi, will return to play for Barcelona.

Messi, in his second season at Paris Saint-Germain, becomes a free agent this summer and has been linked with a return to Camp Nou as well as a move to Inter Miami in MLs or a club in the Saudi Pro League.

Aguero believes Barca president Joan Laporta must take the first step for Messi to go back.

“He [Laporta] has to make the effort to bring him,” he said. “Leo was born in Barcelona and he should retire at Barcelona.”

Asked what is the probability that Messi will return to Barca, the former Argentina international said: “50-50.”

14.14 GMT: U.S. men’s national team goalkeeper Zack Steffen has said he has no plans to return to Manchester City when his loan with Middlesbrough ends this summer.

Steffen, 27, first signed with City in 2019 but made just 21 appearances and only two outings in the Premier League before joining the Championship side on a season-long loan last summer. He has made 34 appearances in England’s second tier this season, helping Middlesbrough to third place with eight games of the season remaining.

“I don’t think I’ll go back,” Steffen told The Philadelphia Inquirer this week. “No, I want to be playing. Although I had a great time at City and I love those guys, and obviously [it’s] an amazing club, I don’t really have any plans to go back.”

Amid his lack of playing time at the Etihad Stadium and some high-profile errors, Steffen was left out of the USMNT’s squad for the 2022 World Cup. Despite the Pennsylvania native starting six games in qualifying and beginning the campaign as the team’s first-choice goalkeeper, then-coach Gregg Berhalter opted to pick Matt Turner, Sean Johnson and Ethan Horvath for the tournament in Qatar.

“The keepers — Matt, Sean and Ethan — I mean, they were consistent and they were with the team throughout the whole cycle and Gregg just decided to go with them,” Steffen said. “It was tough. God tested me. It definitely wasn’t easy, as you can imagine — just surprising and, yeah, just not what I expected. And it wasn’t part of my plan, but I know that God ultimately has a greater plan and path for me.”

13.31 GMT: Real Madrid defender Nacho Fernandez would only leave the club to move abroad, Diario AS reports, and must decide between agreeing a new contract this summer or accepting a higher offer from overseas, where he could expect more playing time.

The 33-year-old — whose impressive recent form was rewarded by a place in the Spain squad this week — is a one-club man, having come through Madrid’s academy.

“Every summer I talk to the club and my family and we take a decision,” the centre-back said on Wednesday. “Having a contract or not won’t affect the decision. That will come when I talk to the club… Obviously if things go like they are at the moment, it will be as easy as it has been in the last few years.”

12.46 GMT: Liverpool and Manchester United are both keen on hiring Paul Mitchell to revamp their transfer business, the Daily Mirror reports.

Mitchell has previously been in charge of player recruitment at RB Leipzig and Tottenham Hotspur, and will be available this summer when he leaves Monaco.

He told Nice Matin of his decision to leave: “Yes, it was a very difficult decision. I loved my experience at this club. I have always felt a lot of support from President Dmitry Rybolovlev and the Principality. But I have spent a lot of time away from home and my loved ones in recent years. I feel that the mission I had, which was to rebuild the sports project, has been fulfilled.”

Liverpool need to hire new faces in that department with Michael Edwards already gone and Julian Ward also leaving at the end of the season, while United could also be looking for a new head of their transfer strategy if a takeover of the club is completed soon.

11.58 GMT: The agency representing Franck Kessie has denied reports the Ivory Coast midfielder will leave Barcelona this summer.

Reports in Italy claim that Kessie could join Inter Milan at the end of the season but Ambition Group Sports Management, labelled the stories as “fake news.”

There was strong speculation that Kessie could have left Barca in the last transfer window, but the player wants to continue at the Camp Nou.

Kessie, 26, joined Barca as a free agent last summer after his contract with AC Milan expired.

Under contract with the Blaugrana until June 2026, he has made 32 appearances for the Catalan outfit.

11.24 GMT: Former USWNT star Ali Krieger has confirmed that she will retire at the end of this season after a professional football career that has stretched some 16 years.

Krieger, 38, who won two World Cups with the United States in 2015 and 2019, said she will finish out the season with Gotham FC in the National Women’s Soccer League.

The opening stop on the farewell tour comes on Sunday, when Gotham starts the season at Angel City FC.

Krieger’s wife, goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris, retired in November. The couple have two children.

“I feel like my body’s ready,” Krieger said. “I feel like you just know when it’s time and I want to spend a lot of time with my kids and and just enjoy the 16-17 year career that I’ve had, and look back and be really proud.”

At the 2011 World Cup quarterfinals, Krieger scored the game-winning penalty kick after a 2-2 draw against Brazil. The Americans went on to lose on penalties to Japan that year. In all, Krieger made 108 appearances with the national team.

Her pro career has taken her all over the world, with stops in Germany and Sweden. On U.S. soil, she played for the Washington Spirit before a lengthy stint with the Orlando Pride from 2016 to 2021.

10.41 GMT: Rayo Vallecano are “dreaming” about signing Saul Niguez this summer, Cadena SER reports, although the Atletico Madrid midfielder’s high salary would be a major obstacle to a deal.

Saul, 28, spent the 2013-14 season on loan at Rayo and went on to cement his place in the Atletico first team, before falling out of favour with coach Diego Simeone in recent years.

His Atletico contract runs until 2026, and according to the radio station a way forward would be for the player to agree to a wage cut, with both clubs then splitting his remaining salary.

09.53 GMT: Manchester United defender Victor Lindelof says he will make a decision about his future at the end of the season.

Lindelof, 28, has started only five Premier League matches since Erik ten Hag took over as manager last summer, with Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane the team’s first-choice partnership at centre-back.

Sweden international Lindelof has a contract at Old Trafford until 2024, but will consider if he will fulfil that deal at the end of the season.

“Of course like every player, you want to play every game and obviously I haven’t done that this season,” he said. “But like I always say when I come here [on international duty], it’s a pleasure to be here and I’m always happy to represent my country.

“I’m really looking forward to the games that we have and I spoke to [Sweden coach] Janne Andersson before to say I was really looking forward to coming here and to perform, and to be on the pitch with the guys again.

“Like I said, I want to play, that’s why I play football, I want to play games, but I haven’t thought about [moving], right now I’m just focusing on the national team and then of course, the rest of the season with the club. Then in the summer we’ll re-evaluate and see what is best.”

09.07 GMT: Former Villarreal coach Marcelino Garcia Toral has turned down an offer to coach Nottingham Forest immediately, according to COPE radio.

Marcelino was approached as a possible candidate in the event that Nottingham Forest sack Steve Cooper. Forest are 16th in the Premier League, two points clear of the relegation zone.

Marcelino, who has been out of a job since leaving Athletic Bilbao last summer, has rejected the offer as he does not want to take over a team more than midway through a season.

The Spaniard has received others offers to coach in the Premier League from Crystal Palace, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Everton.

Jan Aage Fjortoft details Bayern Munich’s reasoning to sack Julian Nagelsmann and hire Thomas Tuchel.

08.30 GMT: Bayern Munich have sacked manager Julian Nagelsmann and are ready to bring in former Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel as his replacement, sources confirmed to ESPN’s Julien Laurens.

Sources said that Tuchel will sign a contract in the next few days that will run until 2025 with the Bundesliga giants and added that he had also been in touch with Tottenham in recent days about possibly replacing under pressure coach Antonio Conte.

Bayern lost 2-1 to Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday, allowing Dortmund to move into first place and Tuchel’s first game as manager will come in the next edition of Der Klassiker on April 1, when he will lead the Bavarian side against his former club (stream live on ESPN+ at 12:30 p.m. ET).

Tuchel left Paris Saint-Germain at the beginning of 2021 to take over the manager’s job at Chelsea and guided the Blues to the Champions League title in his first half season in charge. He was replaced by Graham Potter early in the 2022-23 campaign after Chelsea stumbled out of the gates.

Bayern will face Manchester City in the Champions League quarterfinals in April.

– Paris Saint-Germain are interested in signing AC Milan forward Rafael Leao, reports Calciomercato. It is understood that the Parc des Princes hierarchy see the 23-year-old as a replacement for Lionel Messi, and sporting director Luis Ocampos is planning to work on the foundations for the move in the coming weeks. Leao, still contracted at the San Siro until 2024, is believed to be prioritising staying in Milan as talks continue over a new deal, with the Portugal international waiting to hear their offer before looking at a move away from the Rossoneri.

– Leeds United are lining up a move to sign Southampton forward Che Adams, according to Football Insider. It is reported that the Elland Road hierarchy will make a move to sign the 26-year-old if the Saints, who are currently bottom of the Premier League table, face relegation this season. Adams scored his fifth goal of the campaign in the 3-3 draw against Tottenham on Saturday.

– Palmeiras have made an approach to sign Red Bull Bragantino winger Artur, reveals UOL eSporte. The Brazilan side are reported to have made an €8 million offer to their rivals for the 25-year-old’s transfer, but negotiations are set to continue after Palmeiras saw their opening approach for him rejected.

– Napoli are keen admirers of Atalanta forward Rasmus Hojlund, reveals Calciomercato. The 20-year-old, who scored a hat-trick for Denmark in the 3-1 win over Finland on Thursday night, is also understood to be attracting suitors from the Premier League, and Luciano Spalletti’s side believe he would be an ideal replacement for Victor Osimhen should he leave in the summer.

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LIVE Transfer Talk: Real Madrid, Liverpool join Barcelona in eyeing Bayer Leverkusen’s Florian Wirtz

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