Welcome to ESPN's Insider Notebook, featuring contributions from our reporters across the top leagues around the world.
In this edition, Paul Pogba is loving life at Manchester United. PLUS: Mourinho the horse, Pochettino's Benfica talks, and David Beckham's old Aston Martin could be yours.
Pogba happy and targeting United stay
Paul Pogba has rarely been happier at Manchester United and is keen to stay at the club, sources have told ESPN, with the turnaround in his mood in part due to his relationship with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Pogba, who returned to United for £89.3 million from Juventus in 2016, has a contract at Old Trafford until 2021, with the club holding the option to extend by another year. And with United still in two cup competitions this season and in a battle to finish in the Champions League qualifying places, there's still plenty to play for, which is another factor in Pogba's improvement in mood.
Sources have told ESPN the France international feels in a good place, and his relationship with Solskjaer -- who coached him when he was a youth player from 2009-11 -- is said to be "great".
Solskjaer has constantly talked up Pogba before and after the midfielder's return from injury this season, with the United boss calling him "one of the best midfielders in the world" following the 1-1 draw at Tottenham.
The 2019-20 campaign has been difficult for the 27-year-old amid speculation over his future and criticism over his performances. But with the coronavirus halting football from March until June, Pogba had enough time to recover fully from an ankle injury that restricted him to just seven Premier League appearances before the pandemic hit.
Sources have told ESPN that despite constant links to Europe's top clubs, Pogba's main concern during his spell on the sidelines was getting back playing for United and proving those who doubt him wrong.
Since the restart, where he has combined well with Bruno Fernandes in United's midfield, sources have said Pogba feels he has started to answer his critics. He came off the bench to win the penalty in United's draw at Tottenham that Fernandes converted, and set up his teammate in United's 3-0 win at Brighton on Tuesday.
Fernandes' arrival has boosted United's Champions League hopes with the club on a 15-match unbeaten run and Pogba, one of the leaders in United's dressing room, feels they are making great progress and that Solskjaer is building a promising team.
In the past, he expressed his desire to play for Real Madrid but with the La Liga giants' finances tight amid the coronavirus pandemic, it is not clear whether they would be able to fund a move this summer. -- Julien Laurens
Horse named Mourinho a $20k winner
When it comes to silverware, Jose Mourinho has just about won it all over the course of his trophy-laden career ... and now his name has become synonymous with success on the professional horse racing circuit in Uruguay.
A horse named after the Tottenham boss claimed victory in the Gran Criterium G22 race in Montevideo last weekend, taking home prize money of around $20,000. His owners at the Haras Cuatro Piedras stables named all horses born there in 2017 after notable people beginning with the letter "M".
"We try to give them attractive names," Haras Cuatro Piedras manager Juan Milat told ESPN. "One of the inspirations behind the name was coach Jose Mourinho, because he is very popular, respected and admired here in Uruguay. He has also coached Uruguay players."
Mourinho (the horse) is the son of a legendary racehorse named Invasor, who was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in New York, in 2013 after a similarly glittering career.
"Mourinho has shown great ability to race," Milat added. "On Sunday he showed a very strong character to win. He was leading early on and several horses tried to surpass him but he never gave up and he showed grit despite the relentless pursuit of his rivals."
That grit and determination sounds familiar. -- Adriana Garcia and Chris Wright
UEFA to decide on fans at UCL games on July 9
Aleksander Ceferin reveals that a decision regarding spectators in stadiums will be made July 9.
Pochettino needs more time to decide next move
Benfica approached Mauricio Pochettino to become their coach but he said he needed more time to consider his options, a source told ESPN.
Benfica contacted Pochettino to discuss the possibility of him taking over but no official offer was made, a source told ESPN.
The Lisbon-based club are negotiating the termination of the contract of coach Bruno Lage, who offered his resignation on Monday following his team's 2-0 defeat at Maritimo. It was Benfica's second straight loss and left the side six points adrift of league leaders FC Porto with five games remaining.
Benfica are hopeful of naming a new coach in the coming days. -- Adriana Garcia
City happy with Sane deal amid expected fall in transfer values
Manchester City are disappointed to be losing to Leroy Sane to Bayern Munich but they believe they have secured one of the biggest deals of the coronavirus-affected transfer market, sources have told ESPN.
Bayern will pay close to €50m up front for the 24-year-old and City do not think many transfers will surpass that figure this summer as clubs come to terms with the financial effects of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The highest fee paid in the market has topped €100m in the last four years but City chiefs, including director of football Txiki Begiristain, believe this summer could see a return to levels of spending last seen in 2012, when the biggest deal was Thiago Silva's move from AC Milan to Paris Saint-Germain for around €45m.
It is a view shared by many top clubs and there was little surprise at the rumours Manchester United will look to start the bidding for Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho at around £50m. While few, if any, people in the game expect United to land Sancho for that figure, with £50m seen as the start of negotiations, the club's executive vice chairman Ed Woodward has warned it won't be "business as usual" this summer.
The fee for Sane could reach €60m if a series of add-on clauses are met and City believe they have got a good price for a player who had made it clear he wanted to leave, with only one year left on his contract.
City were handed a two-year suspension from European club competitions and a €30m fine by UEFA in February after being found guilty of breaching financial fair play regulations, with a verdict on their appeal due soon.
Manager Pep Guardiola, however, still expects to be active in the transfer market with a new centre-back the priority. But having been unwilling to match United's £80m bid for Harry Maguire last summer, the noise around the club is that finances will again be monitored carefully. -- Rob Dawson
Arthur left Barca after Alves chat
A telephone call from Dani Alves helped convince Arthur Melo to leave Barcelona and sign for Juventus this week, sources have told ESPN.
Bibian Weggelaar, the agent who oversaw Barca legend Alves' move to Juve in 2016, also played a key role in helping the Serie A side's chosen intermediary, Giovanni Branchini, get the deal over the line.
Juve confirmed the signing of Arthur, 23, this week in a deal worth up to €82m, while Miralem Pjanic, 30, will move in the other direction for an initial fee of €60m when the season ends.
Unlike Pjanic, who was keen to move to Barca, Arthur was reluctant to be involved in the swap deal when negotiations intensified in May. The Brazil midfielder released a statement expressing his desire to remain at Camp Nou, while sources told ESPN he had doubled his training regime and changed his diet in a bid to win a regular spot under Barcelona manager Quique Setien.
However, former Barca and Juve right-back Alves, Branchini, Weggelaar and two of Juve's Brazilians, Alex Sandro and Douglas Costa, managed to persuade Arthur that he would be better off joining the Serie A side.
Alves, now at Sao Paulo, explained to Arthur over a series of phone calls that he would have a bigger role to play at Juve, which in turn would increase his chances of being involved in Tite's Brazil team ahead of the 2021 Copa America and the World Cup in Qatar in 2022.
Contributions from Sandro and Costa also sold the idea of Juve, while Barca's cold treatment and desire to push him out finally led to Arthur signing a five-year deal with the Turin club. -- Sam Marsden and Moises Llorens
Want Beckham's old Aston Martin? That'll be £445,000
David Beckham loved his vintage Aston Martin so much that he brought it over to Madrid when he joined the Galacticos in 2003 -- and now it could be yours.
If you've got a spare £445,000, that is.
The 1988 AMV8 Volante is up for sale, with a listing that boasts of "significant sportsman prior ownership."
Beckham bought the supercar -- which has a top speed of 170mph and can go from 0-60mph in just 5.3 seconds -- just before making the move to the Bernabeu from Manchester United.
He was frequently spotted behind the wheel of the distinctive-looking red convertible alongside wife Victoria during his four-year spell in the Spanish capital.
Beckham, then captain of England, was a popular figure in Madrid, helping win the league in his final season after forcing his way back into coach Fabio Capello's plans before leaving for LA Galaxy in 2007.
Beckham held on to the car for 15 years -- as one of the crown jewels in a classic collection thought to be worth over £3m -- before finally selling in 2018.
The United legend looked after it, too -- with the advertisers claiming the Aston Martin is "in pristine condition" and was "meticulously maintained by its former custodians." -- Alex Kirkland
Fans could return in September amid COVID-19 crisis
Iceland's Nations League clash with England in Reykjavik on Sept. 5 is on course to be the first major European football fixture to be played in front of paying spectators since the game was shutdown due to the COVID-19 crisis in March.
The League A (Group 2) fixture is due to be staged at the 9,800-capacity Laugardalsvollur Stadium in the Icelandic capital and sources have told ESPN the hosts are cautiously optimistic about having fans inside the ground for the clash with Gareth Southgate's team.
Iceland has recorded just 1,847 cases of COVID-19 during the pandemic, with 10 deaths registered, and the country is attempting to maintain control of the outbreak by testing all visitors for the virus on arrival at Keflavik International Airport.
With transmission and infection levels so low, society has returned to a sense of normality in Iceland, which is why there is now a genuine possibility of the Iceland-England game being played in front of a crowd approaching full capacity.
The game will be the first meeting between the two nations since Iceland humiliated England by eliminating Roy Hodgson's side from Euro 2016 with a 2-1 round-of-16 victory in Nice.
It will also be only the second time England have played in Iceland -- the only previous meeting is a 1-1 draw in June 1982 -- and the game is already being regarded as a huge event in the country due to the interest in Premier League football in Iceland.
Meanwhile, Scottish Premiership side Aberdeen have said they have sold 6,700 season tickets for next season and that supporters could attend matches earlier than initially expected.
An Aberdeen statement said: "As we emerge from lockdown and restrictions are easing, the situation with regards to football is changing on an almost daily basis.
"With positive progress on the fight against COVID‐19, there may now only be a few home games behind closed doors, and we could get back to playing in front of partial crowds." -- Mark Ogden