Paul Merson Says: Mikel Arteta may benefit at Arsenal if transfer market changes

Paul Merson believes the impact of coronavirus on the transfer market will force coaches to coach, and believes Mikel Arteta will get more time at Arsenal.

Merson cannot envisage clubs being in a position to pay over the odds for players over the next few transfer windows, which could see an increase in the use of young players and a levelling of the playing field.

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In his latest column, Sky Sports pundit Merson sees some managers flourishing in this scenario, and predicts the pressure to be lifted off Arteta’s shoulders at Arsenal in particular, but worries about the futures of clubs in the lower leagues…

‘Arteta will get more time’

Every manager is different. I’ve worked under some great coaches who weren’t good managers, and I’ve worked under some great managers who weren’t good coaches.

You need the team around you, the coaches around you to challenge you. When you have a coaching staff around you who don’t, and are just yes men, that can be a problem.

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But I think this situation helps someone like Mikel Arteta. Arsenal need such an overhaul of players that it’s actually almost impossible to get that many players in. There’s now an opportunity for him to work with the current crop, and I think it actually takes the pressure off of Arteta, and now anything is a bonus.

Arsenal’s expectations will be nowhere near as high as they were a few months ago. I think he’ll now be given loads and loads of time to build. He’s young, he’s enthusiastic, and he’ll want to work with younger players.

He’s not a Mourinho or Pep Guardiola, who I’d call your Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroys, they’re just dealing in majors, nothing else! Arteta is the type who might work from the ground up with lesser players.

‘Coaches have to be coaches now!’

I just don’t think clubs are going to be in a position to pay £70m, £80m on players anymore. I don’t see that happening.

If a player is 27 or 28, I don’t see them moving for massive money any more. Instead of £80m or £90m players, it could be more like £40m or £50m. And how do you sign players from abroad if travel is restricted?

I quite like it because now coaches have got to be coaches, they’ve got to make these players better. I think clubs are going to be really, really cautious in the market.

Before all of this happened, I thought sooner or later a player would be earning half-a-million pounds in the Premier League, no problem, but I don’t see that happening now, not any time soon.

For me, this is where coaches become coaches. It’s all well and good buying £80m players all the time. Seriously, what do you need to coach an £80m player? If you’re coaching an £80m player, telling them what they need to do, he isn’t worth £80m.

The good coaches will come to the fore, and those that aren’t will struggle. Some will blossom, some will not.

I think this situation really helps youth players, because you’re going to have to give them a chance. There are some brilliant kids out there who don’t get chances because clubs can go out and buy a £50m player in the blink of an eye.

Managers like Jose Mourinho will have to start making youth team players better. He’ll have to start concentrating on bringing players through, and showing how good a coach he is. Tottenham have some brilliant kids, don’t worry about that.

‘I’m scared for lower-league clubs’

I look at the lower leagues, and these players could easily move to month-to-month contracts. If you’re on those deals, you’re under severe pressure to play well every week. Nobody can play well every single week! It’s hard.

I worry for these players, those in the lower leagues who have mortgages to pay.

For teams like Liverpool, even if they play behind closed doors, they’ll be fine financially in the future. But for teams in the lower leagues, it’s not going to be enough.

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Liverpool in talks to sign Trent Alexander-Arnold cover on free transfer

Liverpool are reportedly in talks to sign Thomas Meunier on a free transfer from PSG. The Belgian international’s contract is due to expire at the end of the campaign and Liverpool could be about to profit.

They are not the only Premier League club to have been linked with the versatile defender.

Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham have all been keeping tabs on Meunier.

But now according to Le10 Sport, it’s Liverpool who could be about to win the race for the full-back.

Meunier scored for PSG at Anfield in September 2018, when the Reds beat the Ligue 1 champions 3-2 at Anfield.

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They would go on to win their sixth European Cup in Madrid, establishing themselves as one of the world’s best once again.

Meunier previously claimed that he wanted to stay at PSG next season, but they appear to be ready to move him on to a new club.

“My ambition is to stay at PSG next season. The club knows this and it has been discussed,” the Meunier said.

“We have a group that is super cool with a fairly young team apart from two, three olds. It’s fairly homogeneous.

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“If one day I had been told that I was going to play with players who can be Ballon d’Or, world-famous, I probably would never have believed it. For me, the Belgian championship was already something very good.”

Meunier could provide cover for Trent Alexander-Arnold at right-back and he has also been known to play at left-back too.

He is not the only PSG star Liverpool are keeping tabs on either.

Guillem Balague has claimed Liverpool are not prepared to break their current wage structure to sign Kylian Mbappe, but they are monitoring his station at PSG.

“Liverpool, as always with a big club and with big players, they want to have information,” said Balague.

“My understanding is that he has set in his mind to go to Real Madrid, he wants to go to Real Madrid, he has told that in the past and it will happen, but not this summer.

“We will have to see if Real Madrid will wait, depending how the financial situation of the club goes, if they will try to buy him next summer or wait until the end of his contract.

“In any case, nothing will happen to Mbappe this summer, that’s what I have been told by everybody I’ve asked.”

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Liverpool transfer target Timo Werner compared to Anfield hero Luis Suarez

Liverpool transfer target Timo Werner has one very similar quality to former Reds hero Luis Suarez, and will become a leading player if he signs for the Reds this summer. That’s the opinion of former RB Leipzig assistant manager Jesse Marsch, who was full of praise for the German striker.

Werner continues to be linked with a move to Anfield.

The 24-year-old has a release clause of just £52million, and Liverpool are expected to trigger it in the summer.

And Marsch, who coached him at Leipzig, has subtly compared him to Suarez.

Speaking to the Liverpool Echo, he explained that one of Werner’s best qualities is his conditioning, and the fact he is never injured.

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That is a quality he shares with Suarez, who never missed a game through injury during his time on Merseyside.

Marsch said: “Even his ability to work against the ball and work for the team is also quite good.

“And he’s fit all the time, that’s another thing you can’t underestimate.

“He’s always fit. He’s almost never injured, so that’s a big asset to have for an explosive attacking player as well.”

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Werner is expected to provide competition for Jurgen Klopp’s front three, given his ability to play as a winger or central striker.

And Marsch detailed the various abilities he will bring to the team if he joins, praising his finishing ability in particular.

He continued: “It won’t be cheap for Liverpool but he’d be a great asset for them, for sure.

“He can [play across the front three] because he’s intelligent. He likes drifting to the left side.

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“Even when he plays as a double striker he likes to drift a little bit towards the left side and then be ready to run without the ball, slashing in behind the back line of the opponent or get balls on the run and go 1v1 or come in on his right foot.

“He can do this from the right, from the left. He’s so smart at finding space and timing his runs behind. And his pace is incredible, as well as his finishing ability at speed.

“From an attacking perspective, he has very few weaknesses, if any.”

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Blackburn Rovers: Martin Tyler shares his memories of commentating at Ewood Park

At a time when football grounds have closed their doors, we’ve asked Martin Tyler to share some of his favourite facts and memories of the homes of clubs around the world.

This week, Sky Sports’ Voice of Football is looking at some grounds at clubs that used to be in the Premier League. Today, he takes us on a trip to Blackburn’s Ewood Park.

Keep an eye on The Football Show on Sky Sports News and @SkySportsPL for some special Tyler’s Teasers from Martin.

How I travel there

It’s not a short trip for me, but there were particularly enjoyable times when on the return journey I had the company of Ray Harford, Blackburn coach and later manager, in the early Premier League years.

Ray’s home in Surrey was only 10 minutes from mine and Tyler’s Taxi happily gave him a direct route back to his family.

What it’s like to commentate there

The original gantry on the dressing-room side could only be reached by a ladder on the outside of the Main Stand. It was not an easy climb and fans arriving on the street below often recognised that when looking up and were not shy about letting you know they were watching!

I learned to act confidently even when I was not so sure-footed, particularly on wintry days when the rungs were very slippery.

As Ewood Park was redeveloped the position changed almost season to season, on both sides of the ground. The present television position is now opposite the main tunnel in the Riverside Stand.

In Blackburn’s great spell in the early Premier League years the commentators were, for a time, perched on scaffolding right by the touchline. What is now the Jack Walker Stand was under construction and was empty. The platform offered a great view of the game for the commentators, but in the warm-up gave the players a great view of us.

Alan Shearer and others would smash footballs at Andy Gray and myself, playfully… I think!

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Did you know?

At the outbreak of the First World War, the capacity of Ewood Park was claimed to be just over 70,000 though the highest recorded attendance is 62,522 for a quarter-final of the FA Cup in 1929 against local rivals Bolton Wanderers.

My memories of the ground

I was perched on the scaffolding mentioned above in April 1994 and survived the pre-match pot-shots from Mr Shearer, but in the match that followed Manchester United were less fortunate. These were the top two teams in the Premier League and the Sunday afternoon fixture was billed as a tea-time title decider.

A United win at Ewood Park would have effectively kept the trophy at Old Trafford at the end of the campaign, only the second season since the restructuring of top-level English football. Shearer was very much the focus of the talk before the game. He had not scored a league goal against United even though he was becoming prolific against almost every other club he faced.

That run continued throughout an entertaining, but goalless, first half, but it all changed in the early moments of the second period. Attacking the Darwen End, Blackburn found a way past the redoubtable Bruce-Pallister defence and the goalkeeping class of Peter Schmeichel.

Tim Sherwood caught out United with a first-time clipped cross which found Blackburn’s dangerman just beyond the far post. The earliness of the delivery was the key and Shearer was free to head perfectly back across Schmeichel, a special goal for Rovers and the scorer himself.

I remember Tim Flowers at the other end spectacularly stopping Andrei Kanchelskis from copying that famous Marco Van Basten volleyed goal from the final of Euro 1988. Paul Ince, later to manage at Ewood Park, hit a post but it was Shearer’s day.

He struck his 32nd goal of the season thanks to another early ball, this time from Stuart Ripley from inside his own half. Alan had isolated Gary Pallister, then won a trial of strength against a very good defender and slammed in the match-clinching second.

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Liverpool tipped to trigger £40m release clause for potential Dejan Lovren replacement

Liverpool have been backed to sign Real Sociedad defender Diego Llorente by Reds legend John Barnes. The Spaniard has been linked with the European champions this week and the former England international thinks it’s a deal that makes sense for his old side.

Llorente failed to make the cut at Real Madrid after loan spells with Rayo Vallecano and Malaga.

Since arriving in the Basque Country he has build a credible reputation as one of La Liga’s most reliable defenders.

That’s seen him handed recognition on the international stage with Spain and he has five caps to his name.

Spanish outlet La Razon, Liverpool are eyeing a deal this summer for Llorente.

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His release clause currently stands at £40million and Sociedad do not have any plans to sell him.

But Liverpool could be forced to sign another centre-back, should Dejan Lovren decide to leave at the end of the season.

In the view of Barnes, Llorente is the kind of player Liverpool should be looking to bring in.

“Liverpool’s recruitment is very specific, they’ll be looking at years down the line and Llorente is only 26,” he told GentingBet.

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“Having someone like Llorente come in and give a solidness as well as the experience is great.”

Lovren came close to leaving the Reds in 2019 after winning the Champions League, but eventually stayed put.

The Croatian hasn’t figured much this season and is currently fourth choice behind Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip.

Sky Sports reporter Vinnie O’Connor believes Liverpool are unlikely to sign another top centre-back but should Lovren leave, it could change the landscape.

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He said: “Is there any chance of Liverpool signing a top class centre-back to play alongside Virgil van Dijk?

“I’m surprised to get this question [during a Q&A) because I view Joe Gomez as a top class partner to Virgil van Dijk.

“I think Virgil very much views it in the same way and most importantly so does Jurgen Klopp.

“It’s incredible to think how Gomez has developed and he’s still only 22.

“I think he will become equally as important for England as he is for Liverpool at the moment as well.

“In cover there is Joel Matip, who again has played well alongside Virgil van Dijk as well as Dejan Lovren, although obviously he has faced criticism at times.

“That for me is a very strong quarter to choose from and the only way to prove it further is to spend big, which I get the impression that Liverpool aren’t prepared to do at the moment.

“Obviously if Lovren feels the need to move for first team football, that potentially opens up a space and Liverpool would then have to bring in a replacement.”

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Liverpool hero Jamie Carragher has Timo Werner transfer theory because of Man Utd

Liverpool are ready to raid RB Leipzig for Timo Werner this summer, according to reports. But Jamie Carragher thinks Jurgen Klopp may miss out on the forward because of the financial results Manchester United announced yesterday.

Werner has been in sensational form this season, netting 27 goals and providing 12 assists in all competitions.

That has alerted the likes of Liverpool to his talents with the 24-year-old desperate to make a move to the red side of Merseyside.

But Carragher thinks the financial situation at football clubs because of coronavirus could mean Werner ends up staying at RB Leipzig.

He explained: “I think there was a good chance of it happening before the pandemic happened.

“But financially now you don’t know what state clubs are in.

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“I actually saw something on Twitter before about Man United’s financial results so, you would expect Liverpool to be pretty similar [as to] how they’ve been affected.

“I am sure that will affect the transfer market.

Financial figures released on Thursday confirmed United’s debt had increased from £127.4m to a staggering £429.1m.

And Carragher expects there to be a similar impact on clubs like Liverpool because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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“I don’t think Liverpool can complain too much with the squad they’ve got at the moment,” he added.

“They’ve lost one league game all season and one last season.

“There’s certainly not too much that needs too change but I do feel a top attacking player is needed but if the finances aren’t there, they aren’t there.”

Premier League football is currently suspended due to the coronavirus crisis with players starting to train again earlier this week.

They are only allowed to do so in small groups and while maintaining social distancing for now though.

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Several players have opted against returning to action though because of fears over safety including Watford striker Troy Deeney and Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante.

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson has offered his support to any player who makes the decision to stay at home.

“I fully respect their opinion and their decision to do that,” Henderson told Sky Sports.

“I think everybody is in a different situation with their family and at home.

“Ultimately, if you don’t feel comfortable or safe, you shouldn’t feel forced or pressured to come into work.

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“I fully respect the lads that don’t feel comfortable as of yet, and I hope that they respect my opinion and that of the other players who have come back.

“Everybody’s situation is different but ultimately, for me, I feel very safe here at the training ground, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. My team-mates as well.

“I can only really speak for us, but I fully respect people in different situations who don’t feel comfortable.

“If any of my team-mates felt like that, I would fully support them and back them until they felt it was right to come back.

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Lionel Messi: Barcelona star ‘called Inter Milan forward Lautaro Martinez’ about transfer

Barcelona star Lionel Messi called Inter Milan striker Lautaro Martinez about a potential summer move to the Nou Camp, it has been claimed. Martinez has flourished at the San Siro this season, becoming a Barcelona target in the process. And it seems like he could be playing alongside Messi in Catalonia next season, with the pair keen for that to happen.

Martinez joined Inter Milan in the summer of 2018 from Racing Club, scoring nine goals in his first season at the San Siro.

And the Argentina international has kicked on since then, finding the net 16 times from 31 games across all competitions this campaign.

Inter are now facing a fight to keep hold of their star striker. Antonio Conte would like for him to stay but knows they may have to let him go if the right offer comes in.

And Adrian Ruben Fernandez, who works at Racing overseeing the development of young players, has claimed that Messi has talked with Martinez about a potential move.

“Messi called him and wants him at his side soon, I have no doubts,” he told Sport.

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“So they are almost defining the operation of his signing. I know that everything will go very well for him in Barcelona and that Lautaro will be an excellent replacement for Luis Suarez.

“He is his ideal heir, he has barbaric conditions and thanks to Barca he will continue to grow as a footballer and as a man.”

Fernandez also opened up on Martinez’s decision to turn down a move to Real Madrid earlier in his career.

“He rejected the offer of Real Madrid, because we speak to the people who love Racing and those who drive,” he said.

“We told him that the most important thing for him at that time was to stay with us, debut in Racing and enjoy time in the Argentine First Division.

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“Luckily he listened to us and made his official championship debut on October 31, 2015, at just 18 years old and replacing none other than Diego Milito.”

Fernandez feels Martinez would benefit from playing alongside Messi.

And he also thinks the Argentina national team would thrive in general with two of its best players on the same side.

“Let him go to play with the best footballer in the world, who is still 32 years old and with another three-to-four seasons ahead,” he continued.

“Being Messi’s teammate at Barcelona would enhance him and help both of them to be in perfect harmony also in the Argentina National Team.

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“Lautaro and Leo could thus come to understand each other in the best way on the pitch.”

Messi recently praised Martinez publicly – but said he was unaware of any progress over a possible transfer.

“If I am honest I do not know very well if there were or are negotiations right now for him, I have no idea,” Messi told Sport.

“Lautaro is an impressive striker, especially because I think he is a very complete player: he is strong, he dribbles well, he has [an eye for] goal, he knows how to protect the ball.

“But, well, we will have to see what happens finally with him and with other names that have been mentioned.”

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Timo Werner urged to snub Liverpool transfer by RB Leipzig team-mate

Timo Werner has been urged to stay at RB Leipzig this summer and snub a move away, despite heavy interest from Liverpool. Werner’s team-mate Dani Olmo believes the young German ace has been doing “pretty well” and doesn’t need to move any time soon.

Werner looks set to become Liverpool’s big signing of the summer.

The 24-year-old has been on fire this season, and has attracted attention from the Premier League.

The Reds are believed to be on the verge of triggering his £52million release clause, but are keen to get the transfer fee down.

However, Olmo wants the forward to stay put at Leipzig and snub a potential move away.

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Speaking ahead of the Bundesliga’s return this weekend, Olmo sang the praises of Werner.

He explained what makes Werner so special is his versatility and his ability to play in a variety of positions.

“He gives you a lot of options because he loves to move all over the pitch,” Olmo said to Goal.

“He’s not a target man or a static striker, he likes to drift to the wings or drop into midfield to receive the ball and break the defensive line.

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“He’s so fast and he has the killer instinct – he’s scored a lot this season. He’s a player that gives you a lot of opportunities in the way that he plays.

“I think the place that he fits best is Leipzig and the Bundesliga. He’s doing pretty well where he is.”

Olmo was also full of praise for Dayot Upamecano, who is a transfer target for Arsenal.

The 21-year-old centre-back has looked strong this season and will be out of contract in just over a year.

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And Olmo believes the defender will be a key part of Leipzig’s team long-term.

“I love that player,” he said of Upamecano.

“I first met him in the Euro Under-21 semi-final and I realised he’s a strong, fast and aggressive player, very hard to beat, and he’s young like me – we were both born in 1998.

“He isn’t just a player for the future, but also for the present.”

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History proves misguided Timo Werner could wreck his own Liverpool transfer dream

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was the first figure to voice his bemusement. Timo Werner may be one of the most prolific and most wanted forwards in world football, but his current approach towards a summer transfer leaves much to be desired. While he has remained respectful to RB Leipzig, it appears he believes he has already outgrown them and feels ready for a new challenge.

Given the clubs that are interested in him, he can be forgiven.

Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Inter Milan and Juventus are all thought to be considering a move.

Yet Werner has already made his preference crystal clear. He wants to move to Anfield.

His first public declaration came after he scored the winning goal in Leipzig’s 1-0 win at Tottenham.

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“Yes I know that Liverpool is the best team in the moment in the world and when you’re linked with the team, it makes me very proud,” he said.

“In case of that, it’s a pleasure, but I know that in Liverpool play a lot of good players and I have to improve myself to learn much more things to get on this level to play there.”

Three days later he was back in the goals again as Leipzig won 5-0 at Schalke.

Again, he needed no second invitation to talk about Liverpool when asked by a reporter after the game.

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“There’s one of the best managers in the world with Jurgen Klopp, and he is also German,” Werner said.

“Many things suggest that I would maybe fit in (at Liverpool) very well with my playing style.

“But I don’t think about that at the moment because we have so much to do with Leipzig.”

It’s a measure of Liverpool’s current stature that Werner wants to join them so badly.

But what he may not be aware of is Liverpool do not operate with the end of transparency that Werner has abided by in recent months.

Since being reported by Southampton in 2017 for allegedly tapping up Virgil van Dijk, you have barely heard a peep when it comes to Liverpool transfer dealings.

The club do not tend to leak information unless a signing has been formalised.

That’s perhaps why there has been some confusion of late in regards to their interest in Werner.

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Since Michael Edwards came to power, Liverpool have become an example to all when it comes to efficient business.

With Werner so desperate to join them, they won’t think twice about leaving him red-faced should the deal not suit their terms.

It’s something they did to Piotr Zielinski in the summer of 2016.

The former Empoli man even sported a Liverpool shirt for a picture, giving fans the impression the deal was done.

However the Reds instead chose to sign Gini Wijnaldum from Newcastle before Zielinski ended up joining Napoli.

The same could happen to Werner but the 24-year-old will consider himself lucky he is not short of options, despite burning bridges with Bayern.

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Rabiot ‘on strike’ from Juventus after club slash salary by £7million

Adrien Rabiot is reportedly refusing to return to Italy after Juventus slashed his wages by £7million in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

The French midfielder only joined the Serie A giants on a free transfer last summer, but his future at the club is already in doubt after making just 11 starts in his first season with the Old Lady.

Italian football has been suspended since March 9, but clubs returned to individual training last week ahead of a possible return to working as a group from May 18.

Italy have imposed 14-day quarantine measures on anyone arriving back into the country from abroad, with Rabiot's Juve teammate Cristiano Ronaldo currently training at his home gym having arrived back from Madeira last week.

With Rabiot still in France, he would be required to do the same upon arrival in Turin, but La Stampa claim that he is currently unwilling to link up with the club after they cut his £28million salary by a quarter.

Juve's players agreed to a four-month wage deferral in March which has saved the club a reported £80million.


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