Werner focused on WC, not a potential transfer

RB Leipzig striker Timo Werner insists he isn't interested in using the World Cup as a shop window but instead is determined to help Germany defend their title.

The 22-year-old has been in terrific form for the Bundesliga outfit over the last two seasons, scoring 34 goals and providing 15 assists in all competitions.

Many have speculated that he may be due a big-money move to an elite European club in the off-season.

However, he has made it clear that winning the World Cup with Germany is his priority.

"The World Cup is not about auditioning for Barcelona, Madrid, Liverpool or whoever," he told German sports magazine Socrates

"But I want to become world champion and then I want to attack again with RB Leipzig.

"I'm not dealing with any thoughts of change."

The player is widely expected to be the main striker for Die Mannschaft, and is expected to start in the upcoming preparation matches against Austria and Saudi Arabia.

Werner not keen on Leipzig exit

Timo Werner has ruled out leaving RB Leipzig next season as he prepares to turn out for Germany at the World Cup in Russia this year.

The 22-year-old former VfB Stuttgart striker is a target for Liverpool but says he won't use the upcoming tournament to put himself in the shop window.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has already snapped up Naby Keita from Leipzig and with Rhian Brewster expected to join Borussia Monchengladbach for next season, the Reds are reportedly keen on Werner.

He told Socrates magazine: "The World Cup is not about auditioning for Barcelona, Madrid, Liverpool or whoever.

“I want to become world champion and then I want to attack again with RB Leipzig.

“I’m not dealing with any thoughts of making a change.

“You never know what will happen in football in the future – that is not just a phrase, that’s a fact.”

Low has faith Neuer will be ready for WC

Germany manager Joachim Low remains confident that goalkeeper Manuel Neuer will be ready to perform at the World Cup after recovering from injury.

The Bayern Munich star missed most of the 2017/18 season due to a foot injury which required surgery last September. He hasn't played in a competitive game since, but Low still has faith that Neuer will be ready.

The 32-year-old made Low's provisional World Cup squad and was given the number 1 jersey. However, some doubts still remain regarding Neuer's match fitness.

"I'm optimistic and I assume that Manuel Neuer is able to make it," Low told Bild.

"He has now been back in Bayern's training for more than two weeks and has reached the maximum load of physical demand. I think he can maintain this load in our training camp.

"Only Manuel himself can evaluate in the end if he still has subconscious fears. He promised us that we'll talk about that honestly. He is aware of his responsibility for himself and the team as well."

"Manuel goes to the World Cup as a player who is a 100 per cent ready to play - otherwise he won't," he added.

"It won't be that he only goes with us as a captain who just sits on the bench."

Muller in line for Germany captaincy says Low

Bayern Munich attacking midfielder Thomas Muller is set to be named captain of Germany for the 2018 World Cup should goalkeeper Manuel Neuer not return to full fitness.

Neuer has been out of action since last September with a broken foot although he was named in Die Mannschaft's 27-man preliminary squad for the World Cup during June and July.

The shot-stopper has served as the German captain in the past but Muller took over the armband in recent times, as the 32-year-old worked on his recovery away from action on the sidelines.

The player is in a race against time to prove himself to be ready for the global showpiece in Russia, and seems likely to feature in the preparation games against Austria and Saudi Arabia on 2 June and 8 June respectively.

Manager Joachim Low told the media: "Thomas can do an amazing stand-in job because he's a player with a good relationship to everyone in the team.

"Even in the most serious of moments, he never forgets to have fun."

Nonetheless, Low added he was feeling hopeful that Neuer would be available for the tournament, saying: "I'm optimistic and am assuming Manuel Neuer will make it."

Hazard not considering Sevilla move

Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Thorgan Hazard says he is enjoying his football at the Bundesliga club and isn't looking for a move to Sevilla.

The Belgian has been linked with a transfer to the Spanish outfit after scoring 11 goals and providing nine assists in the German top-flight this past season.

However, the 25-year-old has revealed that even though Sevilla are a top team, he is not considering a move away from Die Fohlen at the moment.

“Sevilla are a great club,” Hazard told Belgian media outlet RTBF.

“They are a good team who play at the top of one of Europe’s strongest leagues and compete highly in Europe almost every year, but Monchengladbach are strong too.

“Right now, I do not want to discuss my future as I still have things to do this season, then we can start to think about the next one.

“At the moment, I have a two-year deal with my club and whilst it is a shame we could not qualify for Europe, I feel good at this club and in this league.”

Monchengladbach will not participate in a continental European competition next season, while Sevilla have qualified for the UEFA Europa League.

Mukiele reportedly close to signing for Leipzig

RB Leipzig look set to sign highly-rated defender Nordi Mukiele from Ligue 1 outfit Montpellier, according to French news outlet L'Equipe.

Montpellier chairman Laurent Nicollin reportedly turned down an initial bid of €14million before agreeing to a provisional deal of €16m, which is expected to be completed in the off-season.

Mukiele is thought to be excited by the prospect of playing for Leipzig due to their playing philosophy and their presence in continental European competitions.

The 20-year-old joined Montpellier from Stade Laval in January last year and has since made 56 appearances for the club.

However, with La Paillade finishing 10th in Ligue 1 this past season the talented young Frenchman will most likely be eager to sign for a club at least involved in the UEFA Europa League next term.

Leverkusen sign Hradecky from Frankfurt

Bayer Leverkusen have confirmed the signing of goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky on a free transfer from rival Bundesliga outfit Eintracht Frankfurt.

The Finland international has been at Frankfurt since 2015 and helped Die Adler win the DFB-Pokal with a 3-1 victory over Bayern Munich last week.

Leverkusen are delighted to have secured the the 28-year-old's services and believe he will add quality to the goalkeeper position as well as valuable leadership.

“We’re very happy to have strengthened our team with an outstanding goalkeeper,” sporting director Rudi Völler stated, according to the official Bundesliga website.

“Lukas Hradecky is an excellent Bundesliga keeper, has international experience and was an absolute leader in Frankfurt. He demonstrated his quality impressively in the Cup final.”

Hradecky made 40 appearances for Frankfurt in all competitions this past season and kept 11 clean sheets.

“It’s an important step in my career,” Hradecky added. “Bayer are a major player in the Bundesliga; the team plays beautiful attacking football and is a regular in European competitions. I’m sure we can achieve a lot together in the coming years.”

Seagulls snap up Nigerian defender

Brighton & Hove Albion have made their first signing of the off-season in Nigeria international Leon Balogun.

The 29-year-old former Turkiyemspor Berlin, Hannover 96, Werder Bremen, Fortuna Dusseldorf and Darmstadt 98 defender has joined the Seagulls on a free transfer after leaving Mainz 05.

He has signed a two-deal with Chris Hughton's side but he has more pressing concerns after being named in Nigeria's preliminary 30-man squad for the World Cup.

Speaking after signing his new player, Hughton told the club's official website: "Leon will add more depth to our defensive options.

"I am pleased to get our first piece of business done so early in the summer. He is in the peak years of his career and I am sure he will integrate well into the squad.

"He also has valuable experience, having played in the Bundesliga, the Europa League and at international level."

Balogun, meanwhile, revealed just what it means to him to be moving to the Premier League.

He said: "I always had a dream to play in the Premier League, and Brighton was one of the first teams to show an interest in me.

“I’ve been following English football as much as I can in Germany, and I saw how they got promoted from the Championship.

“I liked the way they played last season in the Premier League too and how they were able to maintain their status. It’s really impressive how they work, not just as individuals, but as a team too.”

He added: "I think the Premier League is more competitive. The Bundesliga is probably the most comparable to the Premier League.

“Every footballer wants to compete and I think that’s the biggest challenge. It’s more physical, which I personally like. It’s a bit quicker as well and the individual quality in each team is on another level in comparison to the Bundesliga.

“This is my first club outside of Germany, so there will be a lot of new stuff to adapt to, but I am looking forward to this new experience.”

Hasenhuttl: Keita will improve Liverpool

Former RB Leipzig manager Ralph Hasenhuttl believes midfielder Naby Keita will make an instant impact at Liverpool next season.

The Guinea international burst onto the European football scene in his first season at Leipzig, in 2016/17, and at the end of that campaign agreed to move to Liverpool in 2018.

Keita didn't quite live up to his first season's performances in 2017/18, but Hasenhuttl is convinced that the 23-year-old will give the Reds a massive boost when he joins them in the off-season, simply due to his immense talent.

"The lad's just that good," he told Bild. "He's a pro through and through, he lives and breathes football. Even if he wins the Champions League, Jurgen [Klopp] will be thankful for the reinforcement.

"He will join an already incredible squad. But if there's one player I don't have any fear that he can make it at every club in the world, then that's Naby."

Hasenhuttl was in charge of Leipzig for the two seasons Keita starred for them. However, the Austrian cut his stay short by requesting to terminate his contract a year early, after the club opted not to offer him a new long-term deal.

Labbadia: Wolfsburg's hard work paid off

Wolfsburg manager Bruno Labbadia expressed his satisfaction after beating Holstein Kiel 4-1 on aggregate in their Bundesliga relegation play-off.

Die Wolfe won the first leg of the tie 3-1 at home and successfully completed their survival effort on Monday night when they ground out a 1-0 victory at Kiel, thanks to Robin Knoche's 75th-minute winner.

Labbadia was delighted to see his team come out on top and secure their Bundesliga status for at least another season, after a difficult top-flight campaign.

He told the press, according to the club's official website: "First up I'd like to congratulate Holstein Kiel on a fantastic season and for their efforts against us over two legs. Of course, we're pleased to have produced [two of] our best performances - and at such a decisive moment in the season.

"The hard work in the last few weeks has paid off. We made good use of the ball against a team that also likes to have the ball and managed to shut them out. We allowed them no real chances over 90 minutes and were in the right place at the right time to finish things off clinically.

"Judging on the performances over two legs, we deserve to stay in the Bundesliga. We're pleased about that."

Favre is new Dortmund boss

Borussia Dortmund have announced the appointment of Lucien Favre as their new head coach.

The 60-year-old former Hertha Berlin and Borussia Monchengladbach manager joins the Bundesliga side after leaving Ligue 1 side OGC Nice.

Favre, who guided Nice to a third-place finish this season, has signed a contract with Dortmund until 30 June 2020.

He also enjoyed success in his last spell in Germany where he steered Hertha to a fourth-place finish in 2009 before securing Gladbach's Bundesliga survival, having joined the club down 18th place.

Sporting Director Michael Zorc told BVB's official website: "The appointment of Lucien Favre as coach is an important aspect of our fresh sporting start this summer.

"He’s highly regarded by us for the technical qualities that he demonstrated in impressive style many times throughout his spells with Hertha BSC and Monchengladbach in the Bundesliga, and more recently with Nice.”

And Favre expressed his delight at joined Dortmund, saying: "Coaching Borussia Dortmund is an exciting task that I’m delighted to take on.

"I’d like to thank the directors for the faith they’ve shown in me. We’ll now work together on the new team. BVB is one of the most interesting clubs in Europe and I’m looking forward to returning to the Bundesliga, which I know extremely well and always kept an eye on during my two years in Nice.”

Knoche on target as Wolfsburg survive play-off

Wolfsburg secured their place in the Bundesliga on Monday by beating Holstein Kiel 1-0 in the second leg of their relegation play-off for a 4-1 aggregate victory.

Holstein Kiel 0 Wolfsburg 1
Malli's opener disallowed after VAR
Both sides struggle to hit the target
Casteels makes great save to deny Seydel
Knoche scores winner for Wolfsburg

Match summary

Wolfsburg and Kiel both created chances early in the game but it was Die Wolfe who seemed to score in the 17th minute, only to see it disallowed by VAR.

Koen Casteels made a terrific save to keep Seydel out, before Robin Knoche produces the winning strike to see Wolfsburg stave off relegation.

Match report

Die Wolfe made a bright start as they threatened the hosts' goal within the first two minutes. Maximilian Arnold delivered the free-kick but Felix Uduokhai sent his header wide of the post.

The home team had a decent chance around the 10-minute mark when Tom Weiland surged down the right before crossing for Marvin Ducksch, but his first-time volley couldn't find the target.

Aaron Seydel produced some fine individual skill to excite the home support when he cut inside from the left to unleash a strike, but yet again it went wide.

The breakthrough seemed to finally arrive in the 17th minute when Wolfsburg's Yunus Malli put the ball in the back of the net. However, the goal was disallowed after a VAR review because Divock Origi was offside and obstructed the goalkeeper's view of the ball.

The scores remained level at 0-0 at the break, with Wolfsburg still enjoying their 3-1 aggregate lead from the first leg.

Shortly after the interval, Kiel had a great chance to score the opener. Seydel found the target with his shot but goalkeeper Koen Casteels made a super one-handed save to deny him.

The tie was put to bed in the 75th minute when Wolfsburg scored their away goal for a 4-1 aggregate lead. Robin Knoche showcased his movement off the ball as he slipped in at the near post to head home and secure his side's place in the Bundesliga for at least another season.

There was a late scare for Wolfsburg when Rafael Czichos bundled the ball over the line for Kiel, but it was disallowed by VAR for a handball.

USA star Pulisic set to play for BVB in LA

United States of America international Christian Pulisic could feature for Borussia Dortmund when they face Los Angeles FC in a friendly on 22 May at the Banc of California Stadium in LA.

It would be the first time the American star has played for his German Bundesliga side in his home country, following his move to BVB in 2016.

Dortmund are on tour to the USA as a part of their off-season programme.

Die Schwarzgelben endured a roller-coaster ride of a campaign in 2017/18, and just managed to qualify for the UEFA Champions League on goal-difference ahead of Bayer Leverkusen.

Nonetheless, the outfit from North Rhine-Westphalia have since played two charity games against minnows Zwickau (4-4), as well as Herne (4-0).

The club will face LA without a number of players who are World Cup-bound which includes Roman Bürki, Manuel Akanji, Raphael Guerreiro, Lukasz Piszczek and Marco Reus.

In addition, Ömer Toprak is not a part of the 18-man squad as he is injured.

The Major League Soccer side could pose an interesting challenge for the visitors as they are second in the Western Conference, and possess a proven goal-scorer like former Arsenal and Real Sociedad striker Carlos Vela.

The Mexico forward has seven goals so far which includes two game-winning strikes for the Bob Bradley-coached outfit.

Bayern give Heynckes big send-off

Bayern Munich officials and supporters gave retiring manager Jupp Heynckes a momentous send-off on Sunday as the club celebrated winning the Bundesliga title at the Marienplatz in Munich.

Around 15 000 Bayern fans were on hand to greet the team after the Bavarians recorded a record-extending 28th German championship.

Despite losing the final of the DFB-Pokal Cup 3-1 to Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday, the mood was jubilant to honour the champions in sunny conditions at the central square in the city centre.

Heynckes told the club's official website that he did not expect such a big turnout following the loss, saying: "I didn’t expect this today. To have so many fans here celebrating us is just mad.

"It was great fun to work with this team this season. The team has played a football we haven't seen for a long time in Munich."

Chants reportedly filled the air of 'Jupp, Jupp, Jupp' as supporters gave their thanks to the retiring 73-year-old mentor.

Speaking of his contribution, Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge added: "Our friend Jupp had his final game yesterday. He is now in retirement.

"What he has done for FC Bayern is beyond words. We all would've liked to give our coach the perfect send-off, but it wasn’t to be. But I think Jupp has still had a great time here."

Boateng considering Bayern exit

Jerome Boateng says that while he remains happy at Bayern Munich he won't rule out a move to another club ahead of the new season.

The 29-year-old spent a season in the Premier League with Manchester City, having otherwise played the rest of his career in Germany.

The former Hertha Berlin and Hamburg defender has been with Bayern since 2011 and says he is about ready for a change of scenery.

Bayern, who is contracted at Bayern until 2021 told Sky: "Foreign countries are always interesting. You do not have many chances. Everyone has to decide for himself whether he wants to gain experience again.

"I'm a different age now than I was at Manchester City and now at the point of thinking about it again.

"Of course, it's very difficult to get away from Bayern. That would not be a decision against Bayern, I've been feeling very well in Munich for years."

Kovac: We all dreamed of it

Eintracht Frankfurt coach Niko Kovac says it was a dream come true for his side to beat Bayern Munich and win the DFP-Pokal on Saturday.

Ante Rebic opened the scoring at the Olympiastadion on 11 minutes ahead of a 53rd minute Robert Lewandowski leveller on 53 minutes.

Rebic though added a second for Frankfurt on 82 minutes before a late third from Mijat Gacinovic six minutes into added time.

Speaking after the game, Kovac said: "We all dreamed of it before the match. I'm delighted for the club, the fans and my great team."

Frankfurt played in last season's cup final but lost to Borussia Dortmund, making it a fitting farewell for Kovac who has already agreed to join Bayern for next season.

Kovac added: "You can achieve anything if you close ranks. That's what marks this team out. Last year we failed, this year we made it. Our triumph wasn't undeserved. I'm pleased with the title but also sad that I'll leave."

Eintracht Frankfurt sporting director Bruno Hubner, meanwhile, admitted Kovac's side were somewhat 'lucky' to claim the win.

He said: "Hats off to the team's display, even if we were a bit lucky in the end."

Heynckes: Frankfurt displayed a boundless will to win

Departing head coach Jupp Heynckes said Bayern Munich must accept their DFB-Pokal loss to Eintracht Frankfurt although he felt the defeat was avoidable.

Ante Rebic scored a brace with his first on 11 minutes ahead of a 53rd minute Robert Lewandowski leveller.

Rebic lifted the ball over Bayern stopper Sven Ulreich on 82 minutes to regain the lead for Frankfurt before Mija Gacinvoic stole in to secure the win - in the sixth minute of injury time.

After the game, Heynckes told the club's website that the result may have been different had they taken their chances.

He said: "I have to congratulate Eintracht on the cup victory. We made a mistake in our build-up play which resulted in the opener, we were a bit unlucky when Robert Lewandowski's free-kick hit the bar."

He added: "Our opponents stuck to their play, they're resolute, aggressive and very hard-running, so we have to accept the result.

"Frankfurt displayed a boundless will to win the final. It was an avoidable defeat. If you don't take your chances you shouldn't be surprised to lose a final like this."

Striker Thomas Muller added: "We didn't quite put our plan into practice in the first half, even if we had good chances at the beginning.

"Then we went one down after a mistake in our build-up play. Frankfurt played as we had expected them to.

"We had a number of chances, Frankfurt scored two goals from three or four chances. It's extremely bitter. We don't need to draw a conclusion right now."

Low regrets comments about comparing Gotze to Messi

Joachim Low has admitted that he regrets publicly revealing his advice to Mario Gotze before bringing him on in the 2014 World Cup final.

Gotze came off the bench to score the winning goal in Germany's 1-0 triumph over Argentina. Low subsequently revealed that he had told the attacking midfielder to "show the world you can be better than Messi".

The then Bayern Munich star never hit the same lofty heights again, and in 2016, he returned to former club Borussia Dortmund after falling out of favour at the Allianz Arena.

According to Goal, Low revealed at the Bild100sport event in Berlin that he feels he may have had a part to play in Gotze's decline. "I commited the mistake to talk about that sentence publicly afterwards," the Germany head coach was quoted as saying.

"That did not help Mario during the next few months. He was always measured to it and scoring the decisive goal might have become a burden for him."

Gotze was left out of Low's preliminary squad for this year's World Cup, and Low admitted that in 2017/18, he was "simply not that Mario Gotze who we all wish to see".

Frankfurt beat Bayern in DFB-Pokal final

Eintracht Frankfurt were crowned DFB-Pokal champions for a fifth time with their 3-1 defeat of Bayern Munich at the Olympiastadion in Berlin on Saturday night.

  • Bayern Munich 1 Eintracht Frankfurt 3
  • Rebic on target on 11'
  • Lewandowski levels on 53'
  • Rebic brace on 82'
  • Gacinovic seals the win on 90'+6'

Match summary

Niko Kovac showed no mercy to his new employers in his last game for Frankfurt to end Jupp Heynckes' superb spell at Bayern in defeat.

The Bundesliga side hit the crossbar twice but were twice undone by Ante Rebic in a thrilling cup final.

Full report

It was a bright start by Frankfurt, but it was Bayern and Thomas Muller with the first shot of the game that was well off target before Joshua Kimmich miscontrolled a super ball from James Rodriguez in the box.

Robert Lewandowski then almost smashed the Bundesliga champions into the lead with a free-kick that hit the underside of the bar.

But it was Ante Rebic, who put Eintracht Frankfurt in the lead with just 11 minutes played, as he dispossessed Rodriguez before Kevin-Prince Boateng picked up the ball and played Rebic in on goal to slot home past Bayern goalkeeper Sven Ulreich.

Bayern were quick to respond but Muller failed to get any real contact on a Rodriguez free-kick as the ball hit his shoulder, while Lewandowski fired his 35th minute set-piece wide.

Rebic then should have added a second, but after latching onto another good ball from Boateng, he dallied on the ball and was crowded out.

Marius Wolf headed wide from a good Danny Da Costa cross before half-time, with Ulreich saving a Boateng header at his near post at the start of the second period.

But Bayern were level on 53 minutes through Lewandowski who finished a sweeping move that saw Niklas Sule play in Kimmich on the right, and he cut the ball back to the edge of the area where the Polish striker hit the back of the net, with a slight deflection from Omar Mascarell.

Ulreich then palmed away a first-time volley from Mascarell minutes before second half substitute Corentin Tolisso was denied by a strong challenge from Makoto Hasebe.

Lewandowski was inches away with a 76th minute hooked effort from a Rodriguez cross from the left before Hummels somehow hit the underside of the Frankfurt goal with a powerful header from an 80th minute corner.

Frankfurt though were also threatening though as Rebic curled a shot just wide following a succession of corners.

Rebic looked the most likely player to score for Kovac's side and was credited with his second goal of the game on 82 minutes.

VAR confirmed that Rebic stole in between Sule and Hummels to expertly lift the ball over Ulreich with no question of a hand-ball from Boateng.

Bayern were all over their opponents in the final few minutes, and Rodriguez may well have scored late on but his close range shot was deflected wide.

Joshua Kimmich was just off target with his header in the dying seconds before Lukas Hradecky was called into action and Bayern claimed a penalty for a foul on Javi Martinez that wasn't awarded.

And after the commotion cleared, Mija Gacinvoic stole in to secure the win - in the sixth minute of injury time. A Bayern corner was cleared and Gacinovic ran the full length of the pitch to slot into an empty net with everyone in a red shirt forward.

Dortmund sign Augsburg stopper Hitz

Borussia Dortmund have confirmed the signing of Augsburg goalkeeper Marwin Hitz.

The 30-year-old shotstopper is a former St. Gallen II, VfL Wolfsburg and Switzerland international who joined Augsburg in 2013.

He has signed a three-year deal at Signal Iduna Park on a free-transfer.

Hitz is expected to compete for a first team place against Roman Burki, with veteran Roman Weidenfeller having departed.

Speaking to the club's official website, Hitz said: "After five very special years at Augsburg on both a sporting and personal level, I wanted to experience something different.

"I'm looking forward to the challenge of a club as big as BVB and especially to the Champions League matches."