Ajax head coach Alfred Schreuder believes Jurrien Timber will remain at the club amid interest from Manchester United – and hopes to keep Antony too.

Both players have been reported as transfer targets for United following their appointment of former Ajax boss Erik ten Hag, who is said to be keen to reunite with the pair.

Netherlands boss and former United manager Louis van Gaal has reportedly told defender Timber that should he move and not be an automatic first-team pick, it may affect his chances of making the squad for the World Cup.

Schreuder is optimistic the 21-year-old will stick with the Eredivisie side.

"I think this guy is very smart. He knows very well what is good for himself to develop. And I don't think he's finished at Ajax," Schreuder told ESPN.

Asked whether Timber would remain at the club, the coach added: "I hope so and I assume that."

Schreuder had a similar assessment regarding Antony as he expressed his desire to retain the winger who scored 10 goals and contributed eight assists for Ajax last season.

"It is clear that we want to keep that boy. I think he still has a contract until 2025," Schreuder added.

"I really want to work with him; he knows that, and the club knows that too."

It is fair to say that Paul Pogba's time at Manchester United has been somewhat polarising.

The France midfielder ultimately struggled to consistently provide the football that made him such a sought-after player in Italy with Juventus, before his big-money move back to United in 2016.

Reports suggest with his contract at Old Trafford expiring at the end of the month, Pogba will be heading back to the Serie A giants to try and revive his reputation.

TOP STORY – POGBA SET FOR JUVENTUS RETURN

Paul Pogba is set have his wish granted and will return to Juventus, according to Fabrizio Romano.

With his contract expiring at Manchester United, his wage demands could only realistically be met by a select number of clubs in Europe.

Pogba had reportedly only wanted to return to Italy with the Bianconeri, where he left a four-time Serie A and two-time Coppa Italia winner in 2016.

The 29-year-old's agent will meet with Juve representatives on Thursday, with a medical to be completed at the beginning of July when his contract at Old Trafford officially ends.

ROUND-UP

Ajax are set to make another offer for Steven Bergwijn meanwhile, with Tottenham not accepting offers below £25million (€29m), per Sky Sports.

Barcelona boss Xavi is hopeful Ousmane Dembele will sign a new contract to ward off Chelsea interest, Goal reports.

– Goal also report that winger Antony is determined to join Manchester United from Ajax.

Leeds United have valued Brazil international Raphinha at £65m (€75.3m) amid interest from Tottenham, Chelsea and Barcelona, according to Fabrizio Romano.

Ruud van Nistelrooy revealed he could not have imagined enjoying coaching more than playing but in his first week as PSV Eindhoven boss, insisted the responsibility of match preparation and coaching has "hooked" him.

A decade removed from his last playing stint at Malaga, the 45-year-old confirmed a first senior coaching role with his former club in March, after roles in their youth categories and as assistant for the Netherlands national team.

Taking over from Roger Schmidt, whose side took Ajax to the final day of the Eredivisie season last term, Van Nistelrooy has been given three seasons to supplant the Amsterdam club's domestic dominance in the Netherlands.

In the first week of pre-season, the former Netherlands international asserted he was fully committed to preparing for this first senior role and can now only see himself as a football coach, despite initially different sentiments.

"Never. I could not have imagined it, and if they had told me when I was playing football I wouldn't have believed it," Van Nistelrooy told Marca. "Time passes, and the truth is that I could not imagine a life without football. When I left I began to think about what to do and I wanted to continue to be linked to football.

"It was necessary to see in what area and the reality is that I began to study, to train myself and I noticed that each day that passed, I had more enthusiasm. Then I started working in lower categories, with young players and I really liked that work. That is what has brought me here with such enthusiasm.

"Training is something that hooked me. It is an interesting process that I have lived to get here. Logically, I still have to take many steps, but I am excited about the opportunity that PSV gives me, which is a club in which I played, in which I feel at home, very identified."

Van Nistelrooy had a variety of coaches during his professional playing days and under varied styles, from the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson, to Fabio Capello, Bernd Schuster and Manuel Pellegrini, playing under the latter at both Real Madrid and Malaga.

The PSV boss asserted he remains deeply rooted in the Dutch way of football, however, and his setup in Eindhoven will ultimately reflect his own interpretation of what he learned under the likes of Louis van Gaal and Guus Hiddink.

"What I could see in my time as a footballer is that there are coaches who had more influence than others in the game and in the team. That's normal," he said. "I've had coaches like Ferguson, Pellegrini or Van Gaal, from whom I think I can take a lot of things. I also really like the school in my country, the Dutch school, that way of understanding football and the game goes a lot with my idea.

"My system is a 4-3-3. I like to play with a six and with two midfielders who go up, with an eight and a 10, let's say. And then two wide wingers. Logically, it all depends on the players you have, on their characteristics. Then you always have to make modifications, adaptations, but my idea of ​​the game is that."

He added, however, that any ambition he has as a senior coach can only exist with success at PSV.

"My head is only at PSV, I just started here," Van Nistelrooy said. "I have trained very well here and I have signed a contract for the next three years.

"The project that both the club and I have in mind is long-term, as long as things go the way we think they will. I want to build something beautiful and important here, with a good project, with young and quality players."

Players for the Netherlands' men's and women's sides will be paid the same after the KNVB announced an equal pay agreement, much to the delight of Arsenal striker Vivianne Miedema.

The new agreement will come into play from July 1 ahead of the 2022-23 season, with Dutch football's governing body the KNVB working on the collective deal since 2019.

They hope that the agreement will see TV rights increase for women's football and follows similar approaches taken recently by the United States and Spain.

England already had a collective deal in place since 2020, with women's football set for centre stage at Euro 2022, which starts on July 6.

"We have worked hard towards this and now it is a historic step for Dutch women's football," said Jan Dirk van der Zee, who is a KNVB director and responsible for women's football. 

"The win at Women's Euro 2017, a place in the final at the World Cup 2019 and participation in the Tokyo Olympic Games means the Orange Lionesses have become an integral part of the Dutch football landscape.

"We want to emphasise that with this important step."

Miedema will lead the line at Euro 2022 and is the Netherlands' all-time top scorer, across both the men's and the women's teams.

The Arsenal forward is also the leading scorer in the history of the Women's Super League (74), while her 33 assists take her to 107 goal involvements in 89 appearances in the competition.

Miedema, writing on Twitter, expressed her delight at the KNVB equal pay agreement.

"What a day to be Dutch Equal pay!! Been working closely together with the KNVB to achieve this historical milestone in women's football. Onto a brighter future together," she said.

Mario Gotze looks set for a Bundesliga second coming after being given permission to miss PSV's first training session under new boss Ruud van Nistelrooy. 

The 30-year-old former Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich attacker has been strongly linked with a move to Europa League winners Eintracht Frankfurt. 

Serie A champions Milan were also recently credited with an interest in Gotze, but reports in Germany on Monday indicated a move to Frankfurt was close to completion. 

Sport1 said Gotze, who joined PSV in 2020 and has two years left on his contract, has a clause allowing him to leave for €4million and that an agreement with Eintracht has been broadly agreed. 

PSV confirmed Gotze's absence from training, saying that he had been "given the space... to complete a transfer to another club". 

Gotze, capped 63 times by Germany, was the 2014 World Cup final match-winner, scoring the only goal of the game against Argentina in extra time. 

He scored 12 goals and added 11 assists across all competitions for PSV in the 2021-22 season, playing in 52 games. 

Van Nistelrooy, the former PSV, Manchester United and Real Madrid striker, looks like having to plan without the experienced Gotze, and spoke on Monday of wanting to give opportunities to the club's best young players. 

The 45-year-old was announced as PSV's incoming boss in March, signing a three-year contract. 

Bayern Munich have completed the signing of Netherlands midfielder Ryan Gravenberch from Ajax.

The 20-year-old has joined the Bundesliga champions for a reported fee of €19million plus a further €6m in add-ons, signing a five-year deal.

He becomes the second Ajax player to sign for Bayern in recent weeks, with Moroccan full-back Noussair Mazraoui also moving to the Allianz Arena.

Gravenberch made 103 appearances in all competitions for Ajax, scoring 12 goals, having come through the club's world-famous youth system.

He also played in all eight of Ajax's Champions League games this season, making 376 passes at a completion rate of 88.8 per cent.

Gravenberch also took more shots at goal (four) than all but two of his team-mates, with only Antony (eight) and Mazraoui (five) attempting more.

Speaking to Bayern's website after his signing was confirmed, Gravenberch said: "When the offer came from FC Bayern, I didn't have to think about it for long. FC Bayern are one of the biggest clubs around; players from all over the world want to play for this club.

"I'm coming to Munich to win lots of titles - and FC Bayern are used to winning lots of titles.

"Anything is possible with this club, including winning the Champions League. The togetherness in this team is very strong, which I like."

Bayern CEO Oliver Kahn added: "Ryan Gravenberch is a young, highly interesting player who lots of Europe's top clubs would've liked to have signed.

"He's chosen FC Bayern because he can develop at the highest level here. Players with his qualities are important for Bayern's future path."

Daley Blind has backed "control freak" Erik ten Hag to succeed at Manchester United and deliver the attacking football that the club "stands for".

Ten Hag was in April confirmed as the successor to Ralf Rangnick, who will not take up a consultancy role at Old Trafford after taking charge of Austria.

The former Ajax coach has a sizeable rebuilding job to do after United recorded their lowest points tally in a Premier League season.

The Red Devils also failed to end a league campaign with a positive goal difference (zero in 2021-22) for the first time since the 1989-90 season (-1).

Ten Hag guided Ajax to a third Eredivisie title in four full seasons at the helm and Blind backed the 52-year-old to make a big impact at his former club.

"He's really social," the Ajax defender Daley told United's official website. "I think, also in Ajax, he knows everyone at the club is important. Everyone needs to be involved to get that winning feeling, that winning mentality.

"Everyone is needed pointing in the same direction. He is aware of that and wants to keep everything close. He's also a control freak and wants to be on top of everything. I think that's a special quality you need to have when being that good.

"I think he is a brilliant [coach]. A manager who loves to play attacking football, what Manchester stands for.

"I think he's a manager who knows what he wants. He knows exactly how he wants to bring it over to the team and express that and keep everyone on board, everyone in the same direction to get that winning mentality and winning trophies."

United have not won a trophy since the 2017 Europa League final success under Jose Mourinho and Blind insists Ten Hag must build foundations before focusing on silverware.

"It's difficult to say," he responded when asked about Ten Hag delivering trophies at United. "I won't burn my hands on that but I think the most important thing is that the team puts out a playing style and people can see that back on the pitch.

"I think, if that's going to happen, then winning will become more easy. From winning, you win trophies. When this happens, I don't know.

"I know this manager has the quality and I hope he gets the time to put everything his way and makes sure the team plays how he wants. I am confident he will be successful."

Liverpool's Champions League final loss seemingly signalled the end for Sadio Mane at Anfield.

Luis Diaz's January transfer, along with fresh links for Raphinha to Anfield, all lead to Mane's eventual departure. 

However, the Reds are not willing to let him go for the wrong price, in what is becoming a tricky leverage play.

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL REJECT BAYERN BID FOR MANE

Liverpool have rejected Bayern Munich's opening €29.1million (£25m) bid for  Sadio Mane, according to the Times.

The offer was reportedly submitted at the end of last week and the sum is inclusive of add-ons, which depend on Bayern's performances next season, such as winning the Champions League.

Liverpool officials did not consider the offer, which is perceived a gross undervaluing of the 30-year-old attacker.

Although Bayern want to move quickly on securing the Senegal international, Liverpool have yet to relay a price at which they would be willing to sell. 

ROUND-UP

– Meanwhile, the Reds will not look to further pursue Barcelona midfielder Gavi, according to Sport.

– Nemanja Matic will join Roma once his contract at Manchester United expires at the end of the month, per Sky Sports.

– Benfica are hoping to reach an agreement with PSV over Mario Gotze, Fabrizio Romano reports.

– Talks are in progress for Inter's Stefano Sensi to join newly promoted Monza on a €15m permanent deal, per Nicolo Schira.

Jose Mourinho has said Wednesday's inaugural Europa Conference League final will be about "finishing a journey" as his Roma side prepare to take on Feyenoord.

The Giallorossi beat Leicester City in the semi-finals and finished sixth in Serie A this season to qualify for next season's Europa League.

Mourinho recently insisted that winning the Europa Conference League will mean as much to him as his Champions League titles with Porto and Inter.

The game with their Dutch opponents will take place at Arena Kombetare in Tirana, Albania, and speaking at a media conference on Tuesday, Mourinho said winning the first edition of the competition was a key target for his team. 

"To me this final is not about writing history," he said. "It's about finishing a journey we've been on this season and achieving one of the targets we've always had.

"Me and my staff have been at Trigoria since the Torino game, preparing for this game. The squad look in good shape to me, ready for this."

Attacking midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan has not played since suffering a muscle injury against Leicester last month, but Mourinho said the Armenian could be available on Wednesday. 

"Mkhitaryan trained today with the squad for the first time. But it was only a light session," he said.

"Still, it was important for him to see how he feels out there on the pitch. I will rely a lot on his view on whether he is ready or not tomorrow."

The former Chelsea manager has often gone by the moniker "The Special One", following his confident self-tagging when he became boss at Stamford Bridge in 2004, but he insisted he is not the same person any more and just wants to help his team.

"The Special One story is a nonsense," he added. "It's something you say in the beginning of your career. As you progress, mature, you start to think more about others than yourself. So that's an old story to me. Tomorrow, I will simply try to help."

Roma captain Lorenzo Pellegrini also spoke to the media, and said he and his team-mates will be "focused and determined" to get the win.

"Who wouldn't want to bring something home that will remain forever in the history of this club?" the 25-year-old said.

"We will be focused and determined, as we always are. I hope that tomorrow will end up being one of the best days of my life."

Title races are the best, aren't they?

Months of games, so many ups and downs, goals scored and conceded, and yet it can all still come down to the finest margins in the closing minutes of the last day.

To paraphrase Homer Simpson, the winner is showered with praise; the loser is taunted and booed until my throat is sore.

With one matchday left, the title races in both Serie A and the Premier League are going to the final 90 minutes. Milan and Manchester City have their destinies in their own hands, but Inter and Liverpool are looking to respectively pounce on any stumble.

There is the potential for exceptional drama in Italy and England, but can the Nerazzurri and the Reds have much hope of pulling off the improbable and wrestling the respective title from their rivals?

Stats Perform has taken a look at some of the more dramatic title races from recent history that show anything is possible.

Every goal matters

The Eredivisie provided about as tense a finish as you could imagine in 2006-07, with PSV Eindhoven and Ajax unsurprisingly the main characters.

A strong title defence from Ronald Koeman's PSV began with 18 wins from 21 games, and just one defeat.

However, losing four and drawing four of their next 12 games coupled with Ajax winning five of six leading into the final day meant they were neck and neck on points heading into the last game.

Despite being behind on goal difference, a tremendous effort from PSV saw them pip their rivals after an emphatic 5-1 win over Vitesse, while Ajax could only muster a 2-0 victory over Willem II, losing the title by a single goal.

When goals made no difference in LaLiga

In the same season, Real Madrid made a disappointing start in LaLiga, drawing their first game 0-0 with Villarreal at home before going on to lose seven of their first 21 league matches.

After drawing four games in a row between mid-February and mid-March, title hopes seemed to be over for Fabio Capello's men, only for nine wins in 11 games to send them into the final day level on points with Barcelona.

Barca thrashed Gimnastic 5-1 away from home to do their bit, but Madrid eased to a 3-1 win against Real Mallorca at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The Blaugrana had a significantly better goal difference of +45 compared to Madrid's +26, but that mattered not as the tie-breaker came down to head-to-head record, which was in Los Blancos' favour having beaten Barca 2-0 at home and drawn 3-3 at Camp Nou.

"Agueroooooo!"

Following Sheikh Mansour's takeover of Manchester City in 2008, the club had grown year-on-year and by the 2011-12 season, felt they were ready to mount a challenge at the top of the Premier League.

Roberto Mancini's side started well enough, winning 11 of their first 12 games, but three defeats across December and January dented hopes, while two losses and two draws in a five-game period in March and April all but killed them.

That was until five wins in a row coincided with Manchester United losing to Wigan Athletic and dramatically drawing 4-4 with Everton at Old Trafford.

City beating United on matchday 36 swung things in the Sky Blues' favour, and they went into the last day needing only a win against lowly QPR to seal it.

In typical fashion, they made it hard work for themselves, finding themselves 2-1 down heading towards the 90th minute. United had won 1-0 at Sunderland, which meant City needed two goals or they would have lost the title in agonising fashion.

An Edin Dzeko header made it 2-2, before Mario Balotelli slid in Sergio Aguero for one of the most famous goals in English football history, giving City their first top-flight title since 1969.

 

The ultimate last day head-to-head

It was like something out of a Hollywood film. All the previous nine LaLiga titles had been won by Clasico giants Barcelona and Real Madrid, but in 2013-14, Atletico Madrid believed they could spoil the party.

Barca were the pacesetters, winning 13 of their first 14 games, while Real Madrid were struggling after losing to both Atletico and Barca.

Diego Simeone led his team to an incredible 16 wins from their first 18 games, but a 0-0 draw with Barca made it look like it would be the tightest of run-ins.

Indeed it was, with Real coming back to the party after an 18-match unbeaten run, though back-to-back defeats to Barca and Sevilla stopped them in their tracks.

Gerardo Martino's Barca were wobbling too, losing three out of seven games between February and March, and then drawing with Getafe and Elche to give Atletico their chance on the final day.

As if it could not have been more dramatic, Atletico went into the last game three points clear, but needing a point to clinch the title, away at Barcelona.

Alexis Sanchez opened the scoring for the Blaugrana, but Diego Godin's header handed the crown to Atletico.

When six were not on the beach

You may not be as familiar with this final day, but it stands as one of the most remarkable in the history of the game.

Never mind two or three, there were six clubs that could still claim the Ligue 2 title going into the final round of matches in 2016-17.

Strasbourg, Amiens, Troyes, Lens, Brest and Nimes all in with a shout with one game remaining, all separated by three points at most.

Technically, the drama was not really with the winner of the title, but the other automatic promotion spot that was up for grabs, with Strasbourg able to hold on to top spot following a nervy 2-1 win against Bourg-Peronnas, but it was a 96th-minute strike from Emmanuel Bourgaud sealing a 2-1 win at Stade Reims for Amiens that provided unbelievable drama, taking the aptly named Unicorns from sixth to second.

I did not think I would be advising Inter and Liverpool to go into their games with an "Amiens mindset", but there we are.

Manchester City's dramatic Champions League exit at the hands of Real Madrid this season is apparently cause for another raid on the transfer market.

After already wrapping up Erling Haaland's transfer from Borussia Dortmund, the midfield is the next area of business.

With veterans in the midfield likely on their way out at the Etihad Stadium at this end of this season, replacements could soon be on the way.

TOP STORY – CITY EYE PHILLIPS AS FERNANDINHO REPLACEMENT 

Manchester City have emerged as contenders for the signature of Leeds United and England midfielder Kalvin Phillips, according to the Mirror.

While Manchester United have also identified Phillips as a potential addition for their midfield, the 26-year-old has reportedly made it clear to his inner circle that he will not join Leeds' fierce rivals.

However, Phillips would appear likely to leave Leeds if they are relegated, with West Ham, Aston Villa and Newcastle United all also linked.

Fernandinho will depart City at the end of the season, while Ilkay Gundogan could follow, and the £50million-rated Phillips is a more attainable target than £100m international team-mate Declan Rice.

ROUND-UP

– According to Bild, Paris Saint-Germain are prepared to move on a deal for Liverpool's Sadio Mane amid reports he is stalling on a renewal of his contract, which expires in 2023.

– Incoming Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag has added Ajax's Lisandro Martinez to the list of players he wants to bring to Old Trafford, the Telegraph is reporting.

United have also shown renewed interest in Lazio and Serbia midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, per Calciomercato.

– Chelsea want to sign Milan captain Alessio Romagnoli on a free transfer when his contract expires at the end of this season, Mundo Deportivo reports.

Erik ten Hag says the challenge of getting Manchester United back on track is a "difficult but fantastic one" as the Dutchman prepares to take over at Old Trafford.

United confirmed last month that Ajax head coach Ten Hag will replace interim manager Ralf Rangnick at the end of the 2021-22 campaign.

The Red Devils have gone five seasons without winning any silverware and will finish this campaign with their lowest ever Premier League points tally.

Ten Hag will be tasked with bringing an end to that barren spell, while also guiding United back into the top four at the very least.

He told Voetbal International: "It feels like a challenge to put the club back on track of winning. The options are there, including financially.

"I've also got a good feeling about the people who are there, and that we can take a step in the direction."

Ten Hag had previously been unwilling to discuss his new job while still in charge of Ajax, where he has spent the past four and a half years.

But after winning the Eredivisie title with the Dutch giants for a third time this week, Ten Hag has now opened up on his decision to swap Ajax for United.

"I know United went through a very precise procedure," he said. "They'd done scouting, analyses, data, interviews with people who worked with me. Then we held multiple interviews. They didn't rush into things and neither did I.

"It felt like a difficult, but fantastic challenge. At United, there's something to build and something to win. Manchester United is such a big name in the history of football. It's not for nothing they call Old Trafford the Theatre of Dreams.

"It's a club with an allure in international football. Everyone knows their history. The history is impressive, but I've also researched the present and future and the possibilities."

Ten Hag is reported to have met with United football director John Murtough on Thursday to discuss transfer targets, with Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong said to be among them.

Ajax assistant Mitchell van der Gaag and ex-England boss Steve McLaren, who are tipped to join Ten Hag at Old Trafford, were also reportedly at the meeting in Amsterdam.

But while Ten Hag's focus is now on reviving United's fortunes, the 52-year-old insists he was never once distracted when it came to his work with Ajax.

"I was able to separate the interests of the two," he said. "Ajax was never let down. The club got all the attention it needed. I always had matters well prepared and was completely focused on Ajax."

Ajax face Vitesse on Sunday in their final match under Ten Hag, who will be succeeded at the Johan Cruijff ArenA by Club Brugge boss Alfred Schreuder.

Alfred Schreuder will take over from Manchester United-bound Erik ten Hag as Ajax head coach.

Ten Hag will head to Old Trafford at the end of the season, having seen his Ajax team wrap up the Eredivisie title on Wednesday with a 5-0 rout of Heerenveen.

Ajax on Thursday confirmed Ten Hag's replacement, announcing they have reached an agreement with Club Brugge boss Schreuder.

The 49-year-old, who served as Ten Hag's assistant in 2018-19, when Ajax reached the Champions League semi-finals, has signed a two-year deal with an option for a third.

Schreuder only joined Belgian side Brugge in January, and is hoping to lead them to glory in the play-offs for the Belgian championship.

 

He coached Hoffenheim in 2019-20, though left in June of that season and linked up with Ronald Koeman at Barcelona, acting as assistant to the former Netherlands boss, who will take charge of the Dutch giants once again following the World Cup later this year.

"Becoming head coach at Ajax is an honour and a great opportunity, that I will grab with both hands," Schreuder said.

"I'm also excited to return here, because I enjoyed the one and a half years I've worked at Ajax very much. I wish to win prizes here in Amsterdam, with a team that plays attractive football. With a good balance between experienced top players and very big talents.

"But first I want to end the season with Club Brugge successfully. I want to say goodbye with a title, that is very important to me and I will do my absolute best to accomplish that."

Ajax chief executive Edwin van der Sar added: "We know Alfred as a tactically strong trainer with good and versatile exercise material. These last years he has gained experience as a head coach and as assistant coach at top clubs in various countries and competitions."

Erik ten Hag will head to Manchester United as a champion after his Ajax side wrapped up their latest Eredivisie triumph in style on Wednesday.

Ajax have been locked in a tense tussle with PSV for much of this season but headed into the penultimate round of matches knowing victory against Heerenveen would clinch the title.

Ten Hag's men did not disappoint, winning 5-0 at the Johan Cruijff ArenA through goals from Nicolas Tagliafico, Steven Berghuis, Sebastien Haller, Brian Brobbey and Edson Alvarez.

That result made PSV's own 3-2 win against NEC immaterial, with a four-point gap maintained.

It secures Ajax's 36th championship and seventh in the past 11 full seasons, with Ten Hag overseeing three successes. He is the fourth coach to win three or more titles with Ajax.

And Ten Hag's class of 2021-22 made history as they finished with a flourish, winning by five or more goals for a record 10th time this season alone.

UEFA has approved changes to the Champions League format from the 2024-25 season, including an increase to eight group-stage matches.

European football's governing body had already announced in April that the competition would expand from 32 teams to 36 in two seasons' time.

And following talks in Vienna on Tuesday, the UEFA Executive Committee confirmed the number of rounds in the group stage will increase from six to eight.

All group and knockout-stage games up until the final will continue to be staged on midweek days, as it currently the case.

Two of the four additional places in the expanded format will be awarded on the basis of the highest-performing countries from the past season across UEFA club competitions.

If that had been the case this season, an additional team from the Premier League and Eredivisie would have qualified for next season's tournament.

It had previously been reported that those two places would go to clubs on the basis of their historic performance in European competition, but that is no longer the case.

Of the other two spots, an extra team will qualify from the fifth-ranked country in Europe, while another will go to one of the domestic champions who do not qualify automatically.

Commenting on the changes, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, said: "UEFA has clearly shown today that we are fully committed to respecting the fundamental values of sport and to defending the key principle of open competitions, with qualification based on sporting merit, fully in line with the values and solidarity-based European sports model.

"Today's decisions conclude an extensive consultation process during which we listened to the ideas of fans, players, coaches, national associations, clubs and leagues to name but a few, with the aim to find the best solution for the development and success of European football, both domestically and on the international club stage."

Under the new format, the initial phase will contain a single league consisting of all 36 teams, with each side playing four home games and four away games against eight different opponents.

The top eight sides in the league will qualify automatically for the knockout stage, while the teams finishing in ninth to 24th place will compete in a two-legged play-off to secure their path to the last 16.

Ceferin added: "We are convinced that the format chosen strikes the right balance and that it will improve the competitive balance and generate solid revenues that can be distributed to clubs, leagues and into grassroots football across our continent while increasing the appeal and popularity of our club competitions.
 
"I am really pleased that it was a unanimous decision of the UEFA Executive Committee, with the European Club Association, European Leagues and National Associations all agreeing with the proposal made. Another proof that European football is more united than ever.

"Qualification will thus remain purely based on sporting performance and the dream to participate will remain for all clubs."

Similar format changes will also be applied to the Europa League and Europa Conference League, with both also including 36 teams in the initial league phase.

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