Granit Xhaka: The Swiss Bastian Schweinsteiger

Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Granit Xhaka has enjoyed a standout campaign in the German Bundesliga this season, with the former Basle man showcasing his all-round abilities in the middle of the park that is sure to get him noticed by some elite European clubs. Dubbed the Swiss Bastian Schweinsteiger due to playing similarities, Bayern may be one of many teams who look to the Switzerland international to replace their ageing star.

Xhaka, 22, has been a regular in the Monchengladbach side throughout the campaign, making 29 league appearances, scoring two goals. He is more of a deep-lying player who protects the back-line, than somebody who will be creating chances in the final third. The youngster ensures the opposition are nullified, and when in possession he lays the ball onto more creative teammates.

His role in the side sounds simplified and understated, but it is arguably the most important in the Monchengladbach team. Averaging a tackle or interception every 20 minutes, the 22-year-old is fast becoming one of the best midfielders of his ilk in Europe, and this summer he is expected to be the subject of a lot of interest.

With former side Basel, Xhaka was used to winning titles and other domestic honours, so his initial period in Germany has been a struggle. He has since transformed himself into a key player in the team, and one the manager is desperate to hold on to. While Mochengladbach are enjoying a fantastic season, the lack of silverware and sheer distance from Bundesliga champions Bayern suggest Xhaka will never win anything with his current side.

There will not be a shortage of interest from clubs this summer, so he could be forced into making a big decision about his future. His asking price will have considerably risen from the €8.5M fee Monchengladbach paid to sign him back in 2012, which reflects his impressive development with the club.

AC Milan were linked in the winter transfer window, and Atletico Madrid and Manchester United are said to have thrown their hats into the ring recently too. Plenty of choices for the youngster, but the possibility of winning trophies is an important factor in his next move. His ability is not in question, and he does not want to waste the best years of his career without any additional silverware to show for it.

Coppa Italia triumph against Lazio sees Juventus seal second major trophy in treble hunt

On Wednesday night, Italian Serie A champions sealed the double with an extra time win against Lazio in the Coppa Italia final. Substitute Alessandro Matri, who has barely featured for the Old Lady this campaign, scored in the 97th minute of the game, and the European heavyweights held out for the remainder of the allocated time to seal their second major trophy.

Juventus had to come from behind to win it too, with Stefan Radu putting Lazio ahead just minutes into the game. However, the Bianconeri quickly responded with Giorgio Chiellini tying the cup final less than 10 minutes later.

Lazio had a chance to restore their lead both before and during extra time, with Filip Djordjevic firstly spurning a chance from close range, before hitting both posts with an effort from distance in the first-half of extra time.

Juventus went ahead for good through Matri and Lazio were unable to respond in extra-time. It was for tough for Lazio, but their efforts were not ignored by opposing boss Allegri, who admitted luck played a factor.

“Lazio had a great game, it was worthy of a Final and we knew this would be different from in Serie A. We did well, they did well, they were unlucky hitting the woodwork twice, and we were fortunate on our goal. Football is made of incidents. Before their upright we had two or three favourable situations we didn’t make the most of,” he said.

Manager Massimiliano Allegri was delighted with the victory, and now can think ahead to the Champions League final against La Liga champions Barcelona, who are also chasing a famous treble of their own (La Liga, Champions League & Copa del Rey). The Juve boss has impressively managed to improve upon a side who were perennial winners of the league prior to his appointment, and are now in with a chance of being crowned the best team in Europe.

“I have to say that it wasn’t easy for the lads to win the Scudetto and Coppa Italia. Now we’ll try to win the third. It is not easy to play in three tournaments all the way through a season. Now we will try to nourish this dream and turn it into reality,” Allegri added.

Juventus have won the Italian Serie A and the Coppa Italia, and now can look ahead to Barcelona in the Champions League final in June. Their end to the season has so far gone to plan.

Has Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette Outgrown the French Ligue 1?

Olympique Lyonnais striker Alexandre Lacazette was recently named Ligue 1 Player of the Year (2014/15), and made the Ligue 1 Team of the Year (2014/15), following an incredible campaign that has seen him score 27 goals in 33 games for the French giants. It wasn’t enough to lead them to the title, but his antics haven’t gone unnoticed by the elite clubs in Europe, and his future could well be away from the Stade de Gerland as a result.

He’s so far been a one-club man in professional football, which is certainly surprising given he’s been on the radar for a host of sides for the last couple of seasons, and this summer could well be his last with his boyhood team. Lacazette has been outstanding in the division, and reportedly wants to move to a top side in order to win trophies. The likes of Manchester United, Real Madrid, Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain have been linked with his services, but the French club are fighting his sale.

“Nothing is ever sure in football but we will do everything to keep Alexandre with us. €50m would not be enough, that is not the price. I have never spoken with (the PSG president) Nasser al-Khelaifi about Alexandre Lacazette and I do not get the feeling, when I listen to Laurent Blanc, that he wants to sign him,” said Lyon chairman, Jean-Michel Aulas.

Lyon have a fantastic record with developing players into top European talents. Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and striker Karim Benzema are their best exports in recent times, joining Tottenham and Real Madrid respectively. Lacazette could well be the next player to make the big-money move, and his scoring record suggests he will succeed in any league.

The Ligue 1 runners-up simply don’t have the financial muscle to keep the likes of Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain quiet if either side has a transfer target, so it’s unlikely they can convince the talented striker to stay for another season, especially if offers are tabled. Lacazette turns 24 at the end of the month, and is at the time where he should be close to playing his best football before hitting the peak age.

From what he has shown in his time with Lyon, the Frenchman could be one of the best strikers in Europe under the right guidance. He will only ever go so far with Les Rogues, and the lack of a trophy this season won’t have helped matters.

Has Lacazette outgrown Ligue 1?

Has Francis Coquelin’s surprise resurgence saved Arsenal spending £40M on an equivalent?

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has been full of praise for midfielder Francis Coquelin this season, with the Frenchman having been outstanding since his recall from a loan spell at Charlton Athletic. Wenger believes the combative player, who signed for the Gunners as a youngster, has effectively saved him around £40M in the transfer market.

“If we had bought Coquelin at Christmas for £40m, everyone would say ‘what a signing’. I am sorry he didn’t cost any money, he is still a good player. What is a player worth today? If we had bought (Coquelin), nobody would complain that he was a good player,” he said.

“Nobody would dispute that his performances have been convincing. He has shown he has the capacity to play for us and play a big part in the success of the team. I extended his contract, that means I believe in him.

Coquelin was recalled from his loan spell due to an injury crisis in the Arsenal side, and has been outstanding ever since. He’s retained his place in the starting eleven for the majority of 2015, and is expected to keep his place for the new campaign in August. The French national team have been paying attention to his impressive performances too, and his future is looking bright against all odds.

This season, he’s made 21 Premier League appearances for Arsenal, but is yet to score a goal or make an assist. He’s used as protection to the defence, making a tackle or interception every 11 minutes, which showcases just how hard he works to keep out the opposition.

Now 24, his career with the Gunners looked over when Wenger loaned him out to the Championship, but he’s taken his chance of redemption with both hands, and is now a regular in the team, and has a long-term contract for his troubles too.

Arsenal haven’t had any interested parties looking to sign him, and it’s clear they have no intention of letting him go, as he provides the steely attributes the Londoners have been sorely lacking in the past. Coquelin expectedly breaks up the play and lays the ball onto a teammate. He covers a lot of ground in games, and delivers more dominant defensive displays than the likes of Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini ever were.

Next season will be the biggest test to see if Coquelin can continue his fantastic run of form in the side, but has he saved his manager spending £40M on an equivalent?

Raheem Sterling wants out of Liverpool this summer

Various reports are suggesting Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling will inform the club of his intention to leave at the end of the season, with the England international wanting a move away to a side challenging for trophies. Liverpool haven’t released any statement claiming otherwise, which suggests the 20-year-old will indeed be out of the door for the right price this summer.

Manager Brendan Rodgers was public in his desire to keep the young winger, and long-serving captain Steven Gerrard has urged Sterling to stay and play for a manager who greatly believes in his ability. However, the last few months of the season has seen Sterling edge closer and closer to the door. He’s made ill-advised comments in an unsanctioned interview, and the failure of Liverpool to secure Champions League football or any majority trophy is the nail in the coffin of his departure.

Sterling has enjoyed a lukewarm season, scoring seven goals and making as many assists in the Premier League for the Reds. He’s shone for his club and country over the last 18 months, which has unsurprisingly seen his stock rise too. Manchester City are one club linked with his services, but there’s been little other interest from sides who can meet Liverpool’s inevitable lofty asking price.

Signed from Queens Park Rangers in 2010, the talented winger has become one of the best young talents in the Premier League, and admitted only recently that his decision to stall talks over a £100K-a-week contract with Liverpool were down to his desire to win trophies. Such comments spell the end for his time at Anfield, and the club will now be planning on how to spend his money.

Interest is expected to rise in Sterling’s services this summer, due to his age and impressive record of goals and assists in the last two seasons. Liverpool haven’t been able to retain any of their top talents in recent years, losing Luis Suarez to Barcelona, and now Sterling could be off too. Considering their poor end to the season, finishing outside of the top-four, the last thing Liverpool needed was another campaign of rebuilding.

The Reds do have options in his absence, with Lazar Markovic and Adam Lallana both vying for more game time, so manager Brendan Rodgers now has to back the players he spent so much on last summer to deliver in their second season. Regardless, they look set to be embarking on their journey without the wantaway Raheem Sterling.

Chelsea to deploy Eden Hazard in a central role next season

Supporters and pundits were questioning the signing of ex-Fiorentina winger Juan Cuadrado in the winter transfer window, as the Blues had the impressive Willian and Eden Hazard operating more than successful in the wide areas, but it appears clear the Colombian’s arrival was to make a tactical alteration to Eden Hazard’s role for the following campaign.

With Chelsea having sealed the Premier League title, manager Jose Mourinho will already be making big plans for next season. One of which is likely to revolve around PFA Player of the Season Eden Hazard, who enjoyed a standout campaign on the left-wing for the Blues, operating in a more central position.

The Belgian international, 24, could be moved into the middle behind the lone striker for Chelsea to become the focal creative point in the team to provide even more goals and assists to help the London side retain the Premier League title in 2015/16.

This season, Hazard scored 14 goals and made eight assists in 36 appearances. He’s been the best player in the division by some distance, and his manager wants to maximise his talents by shifting some of the defensive work required from playing out wide.

Many thought Cuadrado was brought in to provide competition for Willian and cover for Hazard, but it’s clear Mourinho is wants the Colombian to operate on the opposite flank to Willian, proving pace, power and industry. The Chelsea boss requires hard work from his wide men, which isn’t Hazard’s strongest attribute, so letting the Belgian work his magic in a central role should get the utmost best from him.

“I think he’s been excellent. He’s had consistency of the highest order and Mourinho has got a good work rate out of him. He doesn’t like doing the tracking back but he has been doing it, and I still don’t think he’s in his best position. I think his best position will be just behind the striker and maybe if Chelsea play a 4-2-3-1 then he can be that one in behind,” said Sky Sports pundit Tony Gale.

Oscar has struggled operating in the CAM role for Chelsea this season, which should give Hazard a chance to shine. He’s proven he can do his defensive duties so Mourinho could well have a midfield five of Nemanja Matic & Cesc Fabregas in the deep-lying roles, with Juan Cuadrado, Eden Hazard and Willian as the attacking-midfield trio, with striker Diego Costa leading the line.

Barcelona seal Spanish La Liga title with narrow win away to Atletico Madrid

Barcelona won the Spanish La Liga title on the weekend, with a 1-0 win against previous holders Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon. Title-rivals Real Madrid ran them somewhat close, winning their game against Espanyol, which meant Barcelona had to match their result to seal the league crown, but ultimately the title was only going to go one way after Real slipped up against Valencia earlier in the month.

Manager Luis Enrique is also still on to win the treble, with Barcelona having a Copa Del Rey final (against Athletic Bilbao) and a Champions League final (against Juventus) to come this season, so the Spanish coach could well be on course to make history. But as for their domestic antics, there was a lot of work to do last season following their failure to secure a major trophy under predecessor “Tata” Martino.

His unattractive playing style imposed upon the Spaniards ultimately saw them falling short in the major competitions, and changes had to be made. Enrique has restored the club to their former glory, and utilising their best player on the pitch – Lionel Messi. The talented Argentina typically scored the winning goal against Atletico Madrid on the weekend that sealed the league title, claiming his seventh La Liga crown.

Barcelona are the undisputed kings of Spain, winning five titles in the last seven seasons. Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid have temporarily snatched it off them, but the Catalan giants have been the most consistent by some distance. Seven league crowns in the last decade shows just how dominant they have been for a long time, and still no side looks capable of catching them.

They lost the crown last season on the final day by failing to beat eventual champions Atletico Madrid, and when they relinquished the crown in 2011/12, they still amassed 91 points in a 38-game season, losing just three times. Barcelona have been praised for how difficult they are now to play against, with many pundits giving praise to manager Luis Enrique for changing the system to make the Catalans a more efficient team to get results, while sacrificing some of the flair they showcased under the likes of Pep Guardiola between 2008 and 2012.

“Luis Enrique has brought something else to this team. Previously, teams had found a way to play against Barcelona and they struggled to win games and titles. Barcelona are now a more complete team and, while they don’t have the romance of Pep’s team, in general, it is a more practical and better team,” said former Barcelona midfielder Gaizka Mendieta.

Nabil Fekir: One to Watch

Olympique Lyonnais made waves in the French Ligue 1 this season, pegging Paris Saint-Germain close to the domestic title. They have young playmaker Nabil Fekir to thank, with the highly-rated midfielder enjoying a standout campaign that has seen his reputation propelled to new heights. A host of elite clubs in Europe have been linked with Fekir this summer as a result of his form, and the 21-year-old looks set for a bright future.

Born in Lyon, and a product of the side’s conveyor belt of talent, Fekir has excelled in his second season in the first-team, scoring 12 goals and making nine assists in 32 Ligue 1 games. He’s created 47 chances, and has made 86 successful dribbles which makes him a nightmare for any defender. The young midfielder perhaps wasn’t too well-known earlier in the season by the masses, but he’s certainly made a name for himself now. He’s done well to keep his feet on the ground and let his football do the talking, but it will be hard for Lyon to keep him due to his consistency over the course of the campaign.

Fekir hasn’t gone more than three league games without scoring a goal or making an assist, and his club form has seen him represent the French national team too. France manager Didier Deschamps gave a glowing endorsement upon his initial call-up, saying: “Fekir is a player with great potential. I consider that he can bring us something different. He plays in a different role to the others. He can score and set up others to score.”

This summer will be crucial as the 21-year-old will now be eyeing a place Les Bleus’ squad for Euro 2016, so he needs to ensure he’s in the right place to enjoy a successful season to impress. Arsenal of the Premier League, and Paris Saint-Germain are two sides reportedly keen on the playmaker, but Fekir appears to be content to spend another year with his boyhood side.

He recently said about the speculation: “It’s always flattering, that’s for sure. It shows that I’ve had quite a good season. But I prefer to stay at Lyon for another year so I can build on what I have done.” Fekir is still young enough to bide his time before making the inevitable move away from Lyon to play at the highest level, but the interest will continue to rise in his services, which puts an expiration date on his time with OL.

How good has Nabil Fekir been for Olympique Lyonnais this season? Where could he eventually end up in his career?

Can Alvaro Morata become a mainstay for Juventus in the future?

Juventus striker Alvaro Morata scored the most important goal of his entire career this week, netting the equalising against his former club Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final second leg to send the Italian giants into the final for the first time in 12 years.

“It (was) a bittersweet feeling (scoring past a former side). Here (Santiago Bernabeu) and in Turin I came on to the pitch thinking that it was a training session (with my old team-mates) and I had to stop and focus. It was quite hard not to celebrate the goal. It was a weird feeling. But I would react the same again a thousand times. I would have liked to have scored against another team but that’s life,” he said in the aftermath of the match.

Morata, 22, joined from Real last summer, but has now become a hero with the Bianconeri supporters due to his European antics. The Spanish international has made the majority of his league appearances from the bench, with Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente ahead of him in the pecking order, but started to prove his worth as the season went on dispatching Llorente to the bench.

He spent six years with Real Madrid, signing as a youth player from Getafe in 2008, and went on to make 51 appearances for Los Blancos, scoring nine goals. Morata has already bettered that tally with Juve in one season, and could well be a long-term replacement for the likes of Tevez in the future.

The young striker had to be patient for his opportunity, but has really come to life in Europe, scoring four goals in his last six Champions League games. He has seven goals in nine Serie A starts this season, and has been lauded by his manager Massimiliano Allegri for an impressive debut campaign.

“Morata is becoming a very important player, he has grown physically. He is a young lad who grew up at Madrid with many champions by his side. He started from the bench at Juventus but has grown a lot and I think there is still room for improvement,” he said.

Juventus paid around £17M for his services last summer, so they knew Morata was more than just a potential talent. However, it can be hard for a young player to adjust to a new city and a different league, so Juve still showed tremendous faith to fork out a decent sum for Morata. Such risk has since proven vindicated, and given Allegri’s recent glowing praise of the striker, will Morata forge a long and successful relationship with teammates and fans in Turin?

Manchester United trying to buy the Premier League title next season

Manchester United chief executive Ed Woodward recently made a statement outlining the club’s intent to recruit a strong enough side to challenge on all four fronts next season, hinting that they hare likely to make a host of big-money acquisitions to achieve their goal, but would the Reds Devils be trying to buy the Premier League title?

It’s something supporters have been critical of the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City for in the past, but now United are set to top the spending charts for a second consecutive summer to sign their coveted targets. A mass overhaul is expected at the end of the season, and Woodward revealed the club are going to spend large sums of money to challenge at the top again.

“The squad will be absolutely deep enough and ready to challenge on all fronts and all competitions next year. That will as ever involve some ins and outs. In regards to this summer’s transfer activity we have already started implementing our plans. We expect to be active again during the window, as we look forward to next season challenging for trophies in all competitions,” he said.

Last summer, Manchester United spent approximately £170M on Angel Di Maria (£66M from Real Madrid), Luke Shaw (£33M from Southampton), Ander Herrera (£31M from Athletic Bilbao), Marcos Rojo (£17M from Sporting Lisbon), Daley Blind (£15M from Ajax), and Radamel Falcao (£7M loan fee from AS Monaco)

The signing of Memphis Depay has set them back a further £25M, and there’s more to come through the door this summer. So should Manchester United be challenging for at least one club honour next season given how much they have spent in the last couple of transfer windows? Could they be accused of trying to be the title?

Real Madrid winger Gareth Bale is reportedly on his way to the Premier League, after a season to forget in Spain, with a deal to United being “almost done” according to some sources. It’s another example of how United’s financial muscle could haul themselves out of trouble, propelling them to success.

While Manchester United have always been a club to spend large sums of money on the right players, they have parted with a lot for any side in the last two seasons, and they are in desperate need to see a return of their investments soon. Manager Louis van Gaal said he has three seasons to win the Premier League title, so this campaign should see United take big strides in the division.