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PRESSURE INCREASES ON ON SAINT’S NATHAN JONES AS SOUTHAMPTON LOSE AT HOME TO 10-MAN WOLVES

Southampton were dealt a major blow in their fight for Premier League survival following a 2-1 defeat to 10-man Wolves at St Mary’s Stadium.

The home side had an extra player for two-thirds of Saturday’s fixture after Mario Lemina’s controversial dismissal with only 27 minutes on the clock.

But after Carlos Alcaraz opened the scoring moments before Lemina’s sending-off, Jan Bednarek comically bundled into his own net with debutant Joao Gomes scoring the winner in the closing stages.

Nathan Jones will face further scrutiny over his position as a chorus of boos rang around St Mary’s at the final whistle with supporters aiming the chant, “get out of our club”, and “you don’t know what you’re doing” at the beleaguered Welshman.

A week on from Jones’s bizarre post-Brentford defeat rant, in which he claimed he had “compromised principles” since taking over at Southampton, the anxiety was etched over his face before Saturday’s game, taking his seat in the dugout pensively chewing gum.

But his move to hand full debuts to new arrivals’ Paul Onuachu, the 6ft 7in striker tasked to lead Southampton’s line, and Ghana international Kamaldeen Sulemana, in addition to a first Premier League start to Alcaraz, looked as though it had paid dividends.

The visitors failed to clear a set-piece and when Alcaraz’s first shot was blocked by Craig Dawson, it was the Saints man who was quickest to react, pinging a half-volley off the turf, off the woodwork and past a despairing Jose Sa after 24 minutes.

Jones also had card-happy referee Jarred Gillett to thank for booking Lemina with his first challenge of the game after just nine minutes, and then awarding a second yellow to the midfielder for an apparent show of dissent.

It was the first time in Jones’ Premier League regime that his side had taken the lead, and with the extra-man advantage, it appeared to be Southampton’s match to lose.

However, with half-time approaching, Matheus Cunha fired a warning to Southampton when he held off Bednarek only to blaze his shot over the bar.

Ten minutes into the second half and Sulemana should have doubled his side’s lead when he capitalised on a poor back pass only for Sa to pounce. Moments later, Onuachu fell in the penalty area but his appeal for a spot-kick was waved away.

Half-time substitute Adama Traore caused Southampton hearts to skip a beat with an hour gone when he cut in dangerously from the right-hand side but his shot was blocked.

Julen Lopetegui’s side, vastly improved under the Spaniard’s tutelage, might have had a player less but it was the men in green taking control and with 17 minutes to go they got their equaliser.

Diego Costa and fellow substitute Traore both had shots blocked, but Bednarek stumbled over his own feet and the ball, somehow, ended up in his own net.

The atmosphere was beginning to turn against Jones and then debutant Gomes provided what could be the killer blow for the Southampton boss with a fine half-volley guided past Gavin Bazunu.

As Gillett blew for full-time, Jones headed straight for the tunnel as the home supporters vented their frustrations at the crushing loss. Saints remain rooted to the foot of the Premier League, four points from safety.

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NOTTINGHAM FOREST’S UNBEATEN RUN ENDS AT FULHAM

Fulham ended Nottingham Forest’s five-game unbeaten run in the Premier League with a deserved 2-0 win at Craven Cottage to move up to seventh.

A goal in either half from Willian and substitute Manor Solomon earned Marco Silva’s team a first victory in four matches against an injury-hit Forest side who were subdued and unable to muster much attacking threat.

Steve Cooper’s visitors suffered a cruel and record-breaking blow after only seven minutes, losing central defensive pair Willy Boly and Scott McKenna to injury – the earliest in Premier League history that a team replaced two of the starting XI.

Fulham did not need long to take advantage of Forest’s misfortune. In the 20th minute Bobby Decordova-Reid, arriving onto a loose ball inside the box after Joao Palhinha’s shot was blocked, took control and lofted a cross to the back post. The ball was half-cleared by the head of Renan Lodi but only as far as Willian, who cut inside the Forest defender and blasted a left-footed bullet high beyond Keylor Navas into the top corner.

It was Fulham’s first league goal since January 12 and Aleksandar Mitrovic nearly added a second after 35 minutes, receiving Willian’s square ball and, having bamboozled the substitute defensive pair Felipe and Joe Worrall, striking low at goal only for the sprawling Navas to deflect the ball wide.

Forest, clearly rocked by their early bad luck, were clinging on. Decordova-Reid smacked the crossbar with a crisp, flying drive from 25 yards that had Navas beaten, then Andreas Pereira collected Willian’s ball inside and hit a curling shot with his left foot that went just wide.

The second half brought little respite for Cooper’s side as Fulham’s confidence and control of the game started to build.

Palhinha nodded wide with a glancing header from Pereira’s corner minutes after the restart, before Willian almost replicated the opening goal when he cut inside on his right foot and struck Navas’ post with a blistering effort from range.

Cooper sent on Jonjo Shelvey for his Forest debut in search of greater presence in midfield, but the direction of the tide would not turn. Instead, it was Fulham who struck the woodwork for a third time when Pereira’s 25-yard free-kick bounced away off the crossbar.

Finally Forest threatened to find their bite. In the 65th minute, Serge Aurier hit a cross that was misjudged by Kenny Tete as it dropped, leaving Emmanuel Dennis free to size up a shot that he lifted narrowly over.

Moments later came their best chance. Shelvey’s delivery was excellent and there rising highest at the far post was Aurier, whose firm header was brilliantly beaten away at point-blank range by Bernd Leno.

Forest kept up a vague, lingering threat almost until the end, but it was the hosts who had the last word when substitute Solomon, on for the excellent Willian, drilled past Navas two minutes from time for his first Fulham goal. It wrapped up a deserved win.

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LEICESTER THRASH TOTTENHAM AS ANTONIO CONTE RETURNS TO DUGOUT

Leicester routed Tottenham to increase the pressure on Spurs boss Antonio Conte.

Nampalys Mendy’s first goal in over six years inspired the Foxes to a 4-1 comeback win at the King Power Stadium.

James Maddison, Kelechi Iheanacho and Harvey Barnes also netted as the hosts scored four for the second straight game.

Rodrigo Bentancur had briefly given Spurs the lead but they crumbled during an error-strewn performance.

Conte returned to the dugout after gallbladder surgery but his side failed to build on their impressive victory over Manchester City.

Defeat left them a point adrift of the top four having played two games more as their uphill battle to clinch a Champions League spot continued.

For Leicester, their second revival of the season rolls on after last week’s 4-2 win at Aston Villa.

Questions were, again, being asked of the Foxes and boss Brendan Rodgers after four defeats in five but they have answered any lingering doubts.

Victory even came after a dodgy start where the hosts gifted Tottenham a 14th-minute opener.

Ivan Perisic had gone close before Danny Ward turned his free kick over and from the corner Victor Kristiansen cleared under his own bar.

But it was only a brief reprieve for Leicester and the defender as, from another corner, Kristiansen made a total mess of his clearance and only succeeded in finding Bentancur who tapped in from close range.

Spurs were on top but it took just 11 minutes for the Foxes to turn the game. They had barely threatened but levelled out of the blue through an unlikely source.

Mendy had not scored in his previous 108 Leicester appearances after joining in 2016 but when Bentancur’s header reached the midfielder on the edge of the box he unleashed an angled rocket which flew past Fraser Forster.

Two minutes later it got better for the hosts and captain for the day Maddison.

Ben Davies’ loose pass was cleared by Wout Faes to Iheanacho – left in a ridiculous amount of space – who turned and found the unmarked Maddison to sweep in his ninth goal of the season.

Leicester were suddenly rampant and Forster kept out Iheanacho as the Spurs defence imploded.

Not that sloppy defending was reserved for Tottenham as a mix up between Timothy Castagne and Ward almost resulted in the defender scoring an embarrassing own goal.

It was a game littered with errors and Spurs added another gaffe to the catalogue when the Foxes went 3-1 up in first-half injury time.

Harry Souttar launched a clearance upfield and Iheanacho was given too much space to run at Eric Dier. He checked inside to the edge of the area, dummied and then found the bottom corner.

Ragged Tottenham hardly improved after the break and Forster needed to save from Barnes.

There was never a suggestion the visitors were going to recover and even Harry Kane – with 15 goals in 19 Premier League games against Leicester – was nullified.

With 20 minutes left the visitors needed VAR to rescue them when Barnes converted Iheanacho’s pass – but there was no stopping the winger adding a fourth and sealing victory 11 minutes later.

The generous Tottenham defence first allowed Maddison to advance and slip Barnes in with the England man turning and beating Forster from 20 yards.

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MARCUS RASHFORD AND ALEJANDRO GARNACHO GIVE MAN UTD VICTORY AT LEEDS

Marcus Rashford and Alejandro Garnacho struck late goals as Manchester United won 2-0 at Roses rivals Leeds to close the gap on Premier League leaders Arsenal.

Rashford maintained his rich scoring form by heading the visitors ahead in the 80th minute and substitute Garnacho delivered a knockout blow five minutes later.

Managerless Leeds went toe-to-toe with Erik ten Hag’s side for the second time in five days after drawing 2-2 at Old Trafford on Wednesday and will feel aggrieved to have finished the game empty-handed.

Under interim boss Michael Skubala, Leeds had United on the backfoot for prolonged spells in the second half, but failed to convert a host of chances and United made them pay to climb to within five points of Arsenal.

It is understood former Ajax boss Alfred Schreuder was at Elland Road as Leeds’ search for a new manager heads into a second week and the Dutchman will have been impressed.

Crysencio Summerville fired an early chance for Leeds over the crossbar, while Bruno Fernandes dragged the visitors’ first effort on goal wide in the 20th minute.

Fernandes saw another weak effort comfortably saved by Illan Meslier towards the end of a first half, which was high on emotion but low on the quality that had been displayed by both sides in midweek.

In contrast to a free-flowing first half at Old Trafford, the first 45 minutes was a stop-start affair, littered with fouls.

It was also played out in a cauldron of noise and the usual hostilities stepped over the mark shortly before the interval when chants about the Munich Disaster and the death of two Leeds fans in Istanbul were swapped by small groups of rival fans.
Both sides threatened to break the deadlock just before half-time. David de Gea, making his 400th United appearance, crowded out Summerville at the near post and Fernandes was denied by Meslier’s fine save after Max Wober’s clearance had been charged down.

Leeds burst out of the blocks after the restart. De Gea’s low save diverted the lively Summerville’s effort, Weston McKennie fired off target and Jack Harrison’s shot was deflected for a corner.

The visitors responded through Diogo Dalot’s 20-yard strike, which thundered against the crossbar, while De Gea held Willy Gnonto’s effort from outside the box.

Leeds continued to stretch the visitors. Luke Ayling’s overhead kick following a corner flew straight at De Gea, who then saved with his legs to keep out Summerville’s angled shot.

But after spells of concerted pressure the home side fell behind with 10 minutes to go as Luke Shaw’s brilliant cross from the left was headed home by Rashford for his 13th goal in 15 appearances since the World Cup.

Leeds were still reeling from their late setback when Wout Weghorst set up Garnacho, a second-half replacement for Jadon Sancho, on the left edge of the area and the teenager buried a low finish beyond Meslier.

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MANCITY HIT BACK AFTER DISMAL WEEK WITH COMMANDING VICTORY OVER ASTON VILLA

Manchester City hit back after a dismal week off the field with a commanding display on it as they overpowered Aston Villa 3-1 on Sunday.

The champions were rocked when they were charged with 115 breaches of the Premier League’s Financial Fair Play regulations on Monday.

The players responded to the furore with one of their best displays of the season, racing into a 3-0 half-time lead with goals from Rodri, Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez.

Ollie Watkins pulled one back after the break but the visitors were no match for a fired-up City at a raucous Etihad Stadium and did not threaten to get back into the game.

The result put City firmly back in the title race, just three points behind leaders Arsenal with the chance to go top when they play the Gunners on Wednesday.

City manager Pep Guardiola had issued a rallying cry with a passionate defence of the club prior to the game.

His attempt to rouse his side from a slump with his ‘happy flowers’ rant last month may ultimately have failed, given last week’s loss at Tottenham, but this time the effect of his words seemed clear.

The fans answered the call first by creating an imposing atmosphere, starting with vociferous booing of the Premier League anthem.

There were further chants deriding the competition and supporting owner Sheikh Mansour. There was even a banner hailing Lord Pannick, the high-profile lawyer reportedly hired to fight City’s case.

The players fed off this and raced out of the traps. They took the lead within four minutes as Rodri broke free at a corner and met Mahrez’s cross with a thumping header that flew inside the near post.

Villa struggled to live with the pace and intensity of the hosts and almost conceded again when Rodri slid in Gundogan but Emiliano Martinez deflected his effort wide.

Gundogan then put the ball in the net with a powerful drive but it was disallowed for a foul on Martinez by Erling Haaland in the build-up.

Haaland then sliced over, Bernardo Silva had an attempt blocked and Martinez flicked wide from Jack Grealish as the pressure mounted.

Even when Villa had a rare opening and Leon Bailey raced clear, Ruben Dias showed City were similarly determined in defence with a strong challenge.

The second goal arrived after 39 minutes. Callum Chambers wrong-footed Martinez when he misdirected a header backwards and Haaland seized possession to set up Gundogan with a low ball across goal.

This time the German, who scored twice against Villa at secure the title on the final day last season, was not to be denied.

It got worse for the visitors as City claimed a third from the penalty spot in first-half injury time after former Villa star Grealish was adjudged to have been fouled by Jacob Ramsey.

Mahrez, surprisingly given the responsibility ahead of Haaland, made no mistake.

City chased more after the break with Rodri having an effort saved by Martinez but gradually eased off the pace.

Villa pulled one back against the run of play on the hour after Douglas Luiz robbed Silva and played in Watkins, who beat Ederson with a low shot.

Manager Unai Emery followed up with some attacking substitutions but City limited their openings.

Mahrez should have added a fourth City goal but scooped the ball over from close range, while Jhon Duran hit the crossbar for Villa in injury time.

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JESSE MARSCH SACKED AS LEEDS UNITED HEAD COACH AFTER A STRING OF BAD RESULTS

Jesse Marsch ’96 was relieved of his duties as the manager of English Premier League side Leeds United, the club announced Monday morning.

A disappointing loss on Sunday to Nottingham Forest left Leeds sitting at 17th place in the table of 20 total teams, with the same number of points as Everton, who are 18th.

“Leeds United can confirm head coach Jesse Marsch has been relieved of his duties,” the club statement read. “We would like to thank Jesse and his backroom staff for their efforts and wish them well for the future. The process of appointing a new head coach is underway and we will continue to keep supporters up to date throughout the coming days.”

Marsch departs Leeds after being in charge for just under a year. The club had not won a Premier League game since November of 2022 and had picked up a dismal 11 points from the last 51 available. 

Marsch helped the club avoid relegation from the Premier League last season, when the team netted a last-second win at Brentford. While wins over top clubs like Liverpool and Chelsea have given some hope for the team’s potential, the inconsistency now means that they face another uphill battle to stay in the League another season. The bottom three teams in the League are relegated.

The game against Nottingham Forest on Sunday afternoon was the final straw for many fans and the Board. Supporters in attendance chanted for Marsch to leave the club at the end of the game.

Marsch leaves the club as the third American and second Princetonian to manage a Premier League side. Former Huddersfield Town manager David Wagner and Bob Bradley ’80, who managed Swansea in 2016, are the other two. 

After graduating from Princeton in 1996, he had a successful 14 year professional career, most notably with Major League Soccer (MLS) team Chicago Fire, where he scored 19 goals in 200 appearances. Following his retirement in 2010, he began his coaching career as an assistant coach for the U.S. men’s national team. Shortly after, he began coaching in the MLS having successful stints with Montreal Impact and New York Red Bulls before finally getting a move to European football in 2018.

Marsch was an assistant coach with German side RB Leipzig before moving to sister club Red Bull Salzburg in Austria, where he became the first American manager to win a trophy in a top flight league in Europe. After this successful run, he returned to Leipzig as the manager where he had a short stint with them to begin the 2021–22 season. 

Even with a disappointing end to his time at Leeds, Marsch’s managerial career seems to be far from over. With the U.S. men’s national team currently lacking a permanent manager, many fans are already speculating that Marsch could be the one to lead the group of players which some have called the “Golden Generation,” into the 2026 World Cup, which will be hosted in the United States, Mexico, and Canada. 

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MAN CITY CHARGED BY PREMIER LEAGUE AFTER MORE THAN 100 ALLEGED RULE BREACHES

Manchester City could be docked points or even expelled from the Premier League if more than 100 alleged rule breaches announced on Monday are found proven.

The Premier League issued a statement on its website announcing the club – who have won the competition six times since 2011 – had been referred to an independent commission in respect of a series of alleged breaches of rules related to club finances.

The alleged breaches concerned the reporting of accurate financial information, the submission of details of manager and player pay information within the relevant contracts, a club’s responsibility as a Premier League member to adhere to UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations and to the league’s own profitability and sustainability regulations.

The club are also alleged to have breached rules requiring them to co-operate and assist with the Premier League’s investigation into those breaches, which the league says began in December 2018.

Manchester City issued a statement expressing surprise at the announcement of the alleged rule breaches, which referred to “extensive engagement” with the Premier League on the matter. The club also said they held “irrefutable evidence” in support of their position.

Premier League rule W.51 covers the sanctioning powers available to commissions should alleged breaches of league rules be found proven.

These range from a reprimand, through the deduction of points up to a recommendation to the league to expel a club from the competition.

The commission has the power to make such sanctions conditional on defined actions being taken within a fixed time period, and respondents have a right of appeal.

City’s statement said: “Manchester City FC is surprised by the issuing of these alleged breaches of the Premier League rules, particularly given the extensive engagement and vast amount of detailed materials that the EPL has been provided with.

“The club welcomes the review of this matter by an independent commission, to impartially consider the comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence that exists in support of its position.

“As such we look forward to this matter being put to rest once and for all.”

The club’s chief executive Ferran Soriano is understood to have only been notified by his Premier League counterpart Richard Masters of the referral over alleged breaches as the statement was going live on the league’s website.

The club are also mindful of the timing of the Premier League flexing its regulatory muscle on financial matters, when a Government White Paper – set to include plans for an independent regulator – is close to being published.

City have previously vigorously fought and denied charges relating to alleged breaches of UEFA FFP rules. They were found guilty by UEFA’s club financial control body’s adjudicatory chamber of “serious breaches” of FFP rules in February 2020 and handed a two-year UEFA competition ban, but this sanction was overturned on appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in July of the same year.

The chair of the independent Premier League judicial panel is Murray Rosen KC, who was appointed in 2020.

The chair will select individuals to sit alongside him on a commission to consider the alleged rule breaches in this case. The panel also has access to consult other independent financial and legal experts.

The alleged breaches span a period from the 2009-10 season to the 2017-18 campaign.

The club are alleged to have breached league rules requiring provision “in utmost good faith” of “accurate financial information that gives a true and fair view of the club’s financial position”.

The league says the accurate financial information required relates to “revenue (including sponsorship revenue), its related parties and its operating costs”.

The second set of breaches listed refers to alleged breaking of rules “requiring a member club to include full details of manager remuneration in its relevant contracts with its manager” related to seasons 2009-10 to 2012-13 inclusive.

The club’s manager between December 2009 and May 2013 was current Italy boss Roberto Mancini.

The second set of alleged breaches also refers to requirements for a club to include full details of player remuneration within the relevant contracts, for the seasons 2010-11 to 2015-16 inclusive.

The third section deals with alleged breaches of Premier League rules requiring clubs to comply with UEFA Financial Fair Play regulations, between 2013-14 to 2017-18.

The fourth set of alleged breaches relates to the Premier League’s profitability and sustainability rules in seasons 2015-16 to 2017-18 inclusive.

Finally, the club are alleged to have breached league rules requiring member clubs to co-operate with and assist the Premier League with its investigations, from December 2018 to date.

The Premier League statement concluded: “The proceedings before the Commission will, in accordance with Premier League Rule W.82, be confidential and heard in private. Under Premier League Rule W.82.2, the Commission’s final award will be published on the Premier League’s website.

“This confirmation is made in accordance with Premier League Rule W.82.1. The Premier League will be making no further comment in respect of this matter until further notice.”

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ANTHONY JOSHUA TO FIGHT JERMAINE FRANKLIN ON APRIL 1ST

Anthony Joshua will begin his comeback trail with a fight against Jermaine Franklin at the O2 Arena in London on April 1st.

The former world heavyweight champion suffered a second consecutive defeat to Oleksandr Usyk last August in Saudi Arabia.

Tyson Fury instigated talks over an all-British bout weeks after that split decision loss in Jeddah but no world title fight was forthcoming, and now Joshua will return to action against Franklin.

He confirmed the contest in a tweet which contained a poster for the fight and read: “A new dawn.”

Joshua was ringside in November when Franklin lost to Dillian Whyte at Wembley Arena, the first defeat of the American’s 22-fight career.

There had been speculation prior to Joshua being beaten by Usyk for a second time that the former Olympic champion may walk away from the sport.

It was immediately put to bed following the third loss of his career when he showed his willingness to take on Fury during September talks.

While those plans fell through and conjecture over a rematch with Whyte never took off, he will begin his latest quest on the path to another world title shot at the O2 Arena.

Joshua last fought at the Greenwich venue in the summer of 2016 when he beat Dominic Breazeale.

It was his seventh contest at the O2 Arena and maintained his 100 per cent record there with the Watford-born fighter hoping the stadium continues to be a happy hunting ground for him in two months’ time.

Meanwhile, Joe Cordina’s rearranged world title fight with Shavkat Rakhimov has been confirmed for April 22nd at Cardiff International Arena. The original date of November 5th had to be cancelled due to a hand injury for Cordina.

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WALES MIDFIELDER JOE ALLEN ANNOUNCES INTERNATIONAL RETIREMENT

Wales midfielder Joe Allen has announced his retirement from international football.

Allen, one of Wales’ greatest-ever midfielders, said “time and injuries” had taken their toll as he called time on his 74-cap career.

“Playing for Wales has been a great passion and love in my life, I have been extremely fortunate,” the 32-year-old said in a statement released by the Football Association of Wales.

“I have shared this journey with incredible people…my family, team-mates, staff and fans have made it special and I’m hugely grateful to you all.

“Our nation’s support is inspiring, and it has given me immense pride to wear the shirt…so many unforgettable experiences.

“Unfortunately, time and injuries take their toll and so it’s time for me to make way for our next generation.

“The future of Welsh football is bright. All the best, Joe.”

Swansea product Allen made his Wales debut in 2009 and was part of the so-called ‘Golden Generation’, which included Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, that took the nation to a first major tournament for 58 years at Euro 2016.

Allen was named in the official team of that tournament as Wales reached the semi-finals in France.

He also helped Wales qualify for Euro 2020 and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, the latter the nation’s first appearance on the global stage since 1958.

Allen, who played for Liverpool and Stoke before returning to Swansea last summer, made his final Wales appearance in the World Cup defeat to England in November.

The player’s departure from the international scene is another blow to Wales boss Robert Page, who saw his captain and the country’s talisman Bale retire from football last month.

Wales start their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign with games against Croatia and Latvia next month.

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TOTTENHAM BOOST ATTACKING OPTIONS WITH SIGNING OF ARNAUT DANJUMA

Tottenham have signed forward Arnaut Danjuma on loan from Villarreal until the end of the season.

The Netherlands international had been expected to join Premier League rivals Everton before Spurs hijacked the move.

His arrival in north London boosts Antonio Conte’s attacking options, with Son Heung-min, Dejan Kulusevski, Richarlison and Lucas Moura each having experienced injury issues this term.

Danjuma, who will turn 26 next week, spent two years playing in England with Bournemouth between 2019 and 2021.

While he starred for the Cherries in the Sky Bet Championship, he struggled in the top flight and failed to score in 14 appearances.

A switch to LaLiga in 2021 proved successful as Danjuma played a key role in Villarreal’s run to the Champions League semi-finals last term, scoring 16 goals in all competitions.

Opportunities have been more limited for the versatile Nigeria-born player this season after a muscle problem disrupted the early part of his campaign.