"Dream? I'm not dreaming. One day I'll play here, you'll see."

One cannot have escaped the viral clip shared by former club Anderlecht, as he completed his £97.5million transfer, of Romelu Lukaku visiting Chelsea's Stamford Bridge as a child.

Of course, Lukaku kept that promise in 2011 when he replaced Fernando Torres for the final seven minutes of a 3-1 home win over Norwich City. That was among eight outings at Stamford Bridge in Chelsea blue, but few could blame the forward for feeling a little unfulfilled.

One of the world's best strikers left the club he supported as a boy after 15 games, 466 minutes, 19 shots and zero goals.

There was more to Lukaku's desire to turn out for Chelsea than the badge on the chest, though; he wanted to follow in the footsteps of Didier Drogba, the Blues legend whose shirt he wore in that Anderlecht clip.

That second Stamford Bridge bow is still to come, but Lukaku needed only 15 minutes of his Chelsea return to emulate Drogba.

Of the 164 goals Drogba scored as a Chelsea player, 13 came against Arsenal – four more than he mustered against any other side. There were braces in triumphs in the 2005 Community Shield and 2007 EFL Cup final, as well as a winner in the 2009 FA Cup semi-final, on top of his eight Premier League strikes.

Drogba bullied Arsenal; therefore on Sunday, determined this time to take his chance at Chelsea, so did Lukaku.

Nine years and 360 days after that debut against Norwich, Lukaku made up for lost time with an opener that displayed many of the talents that look set to make Chelsea genuine challengers for the Premier League title.

The 28-year-old was allowed to face the goal at Inter far more often than during an ultimately frustrating spell at Manchester United, carrying the ball 3,040 metres in Serie A last season, but he also continued to link the play, involved in 34 goal-ending open play sequences. He was the beneficiary this time.

Mateo Kovacic fired a pass into Lukaku's feet 30 yards from goal and he held on to the ball just long enough to have four Arsenal players around him by the time he offloaded it back to the former Real Madrid midfielder.

Thomas Tuchel had spoken of how Chelsea wanted a replacement for Olivier Giroud with "the kind of profile who likes to play with his back to goal, who likes to hold up balls, who creates space for Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Christian Pulisic, who is ready to fight physically with defenders". It was Reece James, rather than Werner, Havertz or Pulisic, who found himself all alone thanks to Lukaku's distraction.

When Kovacic snapped a pass outside to James, the race was on in the middle and there was only going to be one winner. After Arsenal's awful defeat at Brentford, there had been debate about how Ben White would deal with Lukaku's physical presence. With White laid low by COVID-19, it was Pablo Mari who was swatted aside by Lukaku to leave a simple finish.

Arsenal sought to learn their lesson, challenging Lukaku as quickly as possible thereafter, but even that went against them. Granit Xhaka's lunge on Lukaku 10 minutes before half-time saw the ball run instead for Mount, who found James unmarked again to score himself.

As with Drogba, Arsenal never looked comfortable attempting to contain Lukaku, who did not add to his early goal but created three chances, contested 15 duels, won two fouls and counted a 77th-minute header that Bernd Leno instinctively touched onto the crossbar among eight efforts.

The last Chelsea forward to have seven or more shots against Arsenal in a league encounter was, of course, Drogba (in 2006).

Tuchel has spoken at length about how Lukaku's signing can benefit Werner. Up first was a lesson from the sidelines, however, with the much-maligned Germany attacker dropped for the new man and only introduced in the final minute of the 90, providing just a fleeting glimpse of a fearsome front two.

For Arsenal, meanwhile, the scant positives largely came from the same men as last season – Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Kieran Tierney, at least in an attacking sense before his injury – when they stunned Chelsea 3-1 on Boxing Day, having entered the game 15th in the table and winless in seven.

That result inspired a vastly improved run of form, but their progress pales next to Chelsea's under Tuchel. Their signings do not compare to Lukaku either.

"We are trying to bring the players that we can afford, that in this moment can help us to achieve what we want," Mikel Arteta said this week, asked if Arsenal were operating on a "lower level". "Chelsea would have a different plan," he added.

The goal was Lukaku's fourth against Arsenal, but he will back himself to add to that total based on the apparent trajectory of the two teams.

Only two years older than Drogba was when he arrived in England, there is plenty of time to close on his idol's tally in a fixture he dominated.

Nuno Espirito Santo was happy with Harry Kane's display as a substitute in Tottenham's 1-0 victory over Wolves on Sunday.

Dele Alli's penalty – the midfielder's first Premier League goal since March 2020 – proved decisive at Molineux as Nuno got one over on his former club.

Spurs talisman Kane, a transfer target for Manchester City, missed the opening two games of the season – a win over the champions and a defeat to Pacos de Ferreira in Europa Conference League qualifying – but returned to a rapturous welcome from the travelling support.

Kane came on in the 72nd minute, and perhaps showed just why Nuno has been reluctant to call on him so far, away from the transfer speculation.

It has been widely reported that Kane would like to join City, but the 28-year-old has also only had one week of training since returning from an extended break following Euro 2020.

Kane had 14 touches, attempted nine passes and had one shot during his time on the pitch – Jose Sa closing down a close-range effort from the England captain.

The opportunity, teed up brilliantly by Steven Bergwijn, had an expected goals (xG) estimation of 0.336, making it the second-best chance of the game from open play, after an attempt which Adama Traore drilled straight at Hugo Lloris at the other end.

While a fully firing Kane would no doubt have converted the opportunity, Nuno was nevertheless pleased with what the striker showed in his cameo.

"I think he did well. He helped the team. He had a good chance," Nuno told a news conference. 

"Harry is still in the process of increasing and improving his level of fitness, but because he's one of the best players in the world you could see the way he helped the team in terms of possession and the fine lines. We need everybody, we need everybody."

Asked if Kane would be involved on Thursday, in the home leg of Spurs' tie with Pacos de Ferreira, Nuno replied: "I cannot answer that, it's too soon.

"Now we are going to recover and prepare for the next one. Like we always do the same way and make the decisions that we should take."

While Kane made his comeback, it was Alli who was the difference. After an impressive showing against City last week, the midfielder coolly converted the ninth-minute spot-kick that he won.

Tottenham have now only lost one of their 45 Premier League games in which Alli has scored (W35 D9 L1), and Nuno hailed the 25-year-old's performance.

"He's working very hard. I think all the team is working hard," Nuno said.

"We still have a long way to go and are working very hard to improve, the relationship between players and being very versatile enough.

"He scored in the beginning of the game and in the last minutes of the game he was running all over the pitch so that shows the level of fitness that he has and the belief that he has. A huge, huge help."

Julian Nagelsmann picked up his first Bundesliga win with Bayern Munich on Sunday as they edged past Cologne 3-2 courtesy of a Serge Gnabry brace.

Robert Lewandowski broke the deadlock in the 50th minute, scoring in his 12th consecutive Bundesliga appearance, and Gnabry inflicted further damage eight minutes later.

Cologne refused to surrender, though, Anthony Modeste heading home before Mark Uth equalised to cap off three goals in four chaotic second-half minutes.

Gnabry, however, netted his second to restore Bayern's advantage, arrowing into the roof of the net and sealing three points for the hosts.

Thomas Muller spurned the first chance of the game, poking a sliding finish wide after a driving run by Lewandowski down the right.

Niklas Sule then enjoyed a rare foray forward, twisting and turning inwards before firing towards goal, where Timo Horn reacted acrobatically to tip over.

The hosts failed to make their 62 per cent of first-half possession pay but a double half-time change proved vital, Jamal Musiala – introduced for Leroy Sane – creating the opener.

The substitute roamed forwards before pulling back for Lewandowski to tap-in, the finish equalling his personal record of 12 consecutive Bundesliga appearances with a goal, previously achieved with Borussia Dortmund in 2012-13.

Gnabry made matters worse for the visitors, collecting his 10th goal in eight appearances against Sunday's opponents by arriving at the back post to convert Josip Stanisic's low cross.

However, Cologne pulled a goal back with their first shot on target, Modeste redirecting a header past Manuel Neuer from Jonas Hector's delivery.

Uth shocked the home crowd with his 62nd-minute equaliser, diving to prod low past Neuer after Kingsley Ehizibue's curler from the right.

The visitors remained level for only eight minutes, though, Gnabry firing powerfully past Horn before Lewandowski almost added a fourth, only to be denied by the crossbar.

What does it mean? Nagelsmann on the board as control over Cologne continues

Nagelsmann became the first Bayern boss in 10 years not to win on the opening day of a new Bundesliga season with a 1-1 draw against Borussia Monchengladbach.

However, the former RB Leipzig coach picked up the DFL-Supercup with a 3-1 win over Borussia Dortmund in midweek and now has his first Bundesliga win with his new side.

The hosts have now won each of their past eight games against Cologne and are undefeated in 15 such Bundesliga fixtures, too – their longest winning streak and the longest unbeaten run against any current team in the top flight.

Lewandowski marches on

Lewandowski's opener means he has now scored a goal in every one of his past 12 Bundesliga games.

However, the Poland forward's link-up play was also excellent – making a game-high two key passes and competing for the joint-most duels (17) as he embroiled himself in a battle with Jorge Mere and Rafael Czichos.

Nagelsmann's star attacker now has four goals across all competitions for the season and he will be hoping he can fire his team to their 10th straight Bundesliga title.

Lost Ljubicic

Dejan Ljubicic set the tone for a poor performance with a needless booking in the first half for not retreating to block Bayern's quick free-kick.

The midfielder completed just 61.5 per cent of his 26 attempted passes, while also touching the ball just 37 times as he struggled against Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka in the middle of the park.

What's next?

Bayern travel to Bremer on Wednesday in the DFB-Pokal before hosting Hertha Berlin on Saturday. Meanwhile, Cologne return to RheinEnergieSTADION to face Bochum on the same day.

Romelu Lukaku scored on his second debut for Chelsea to help the Blues to a 2-0 victory over London rivals Arsenal in Sunday's Premier League clash.

The Belgium international rejoined Chelsea for a club-record fee earlier this month and took just 15 minutes to open his account from close range at Emirates Stadium.

Reece James set up that goal and doubled his side's lead before half-time as Thomas Tuchel's men, who also hit the crossbar through a Lukaku header, eased to a second successive win without conceding to begin the campaign.

Arsenal's only real opportunity was squandered by Rob Holding on the hour mark as Mikel Arteta's side remain pointless and goalless after their first two games.

Arsenal had won their last three games against Chelsea in all competitions and started this latest meeting on top, but it was the Blues who took the lead in north London.

Lukaku held up the ball, played in James in behind Kieran Tierney down the right and converted from inside the six-yard box once teed up by his team-mate.

James went from creator to scorer 20 minutes later when again left in plenty of space down the right to thump a shot past Bernd Leno at the end of a flowing move.

Wing-back James was involved in a big incident shortly before half-time when tripping Bukayo Saka, but VAR agreed with referee Paul Tierney's decision not to award a penalty.

Arsenal looked a little more lively early in the second half as Edouard Mendy kept out a deflected Saka drive and Holding sent a free header wide from six yards.

However, it was Chelsea who went closest to adding to the scoring through a Lukaku header from seven yards that Leno did brilliantly to turn against the crossbar.

Cristiano Ronaldo will stay at Juventus and his selection as a substitute for Sunday's season opener at Udinese was a mutual decision, according to Pavel Nedved.

Former Juve midfielder Nedved is now a vice-president at the club and was asked about Ronaldo being surprisingly left out of the starting XI in Udine.

Nedved said, according to Sky Sport Italia: "We must not look for sensations where there are none. It was a choice shared with the player.

"At the beginning of the season it is normal that the conditions are not top and the coach tries to field the most competitive team tonight."

Asked whether Ronaldo would remain a Juventus player this season, the last on his contract, Nedved said: "Absolutely yes."

There was nevertheless speculation that Ronaldo had requested to be selected on the bench, with Sky Sport Italia claiming the forward was looking to leave the club before the transfer window closes at the end of the month.

Head coach Massimiliano Allegri insisted this week that last season's Serie A 29-goal top scorer had told him he wanted to stay in Turin, and the Portuguese superstar has condemned what he described as "frivolous" rumours around his future.

 

Ronaldo has been linked with a return to Real Madrid or Manchester United, while Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City have also been credited with interest.

However, any of those clubs would likely have to generate funds before mounting a move for the 36-year-old five-time Ballon d'Or winner, and City are expected to move for Harry Kane rather than Ronaldo.

With Ronaldo watching on from the sidelines, Juventus snatched a third-minute lead at Udinese through Paulo Dybala.

Jamaica had a medal-filled final day of the 2021 World Under20 Championships in Nairobi, Kenya on Sunday capped by a gold-medal run in world-record time by the Women 4x100m team. Jamaica won seven medals on the final day and 11 medals overall that included two gold medals.

The team of Serena Cole, Tia Clayton, Kerrica Hill and Tina Clayton, clocked a world-record 42.94 to win by about 10m over a fast-finishing Namibian team that ran 43.76 for the silver medal. Interestingly, Namibia’s anchor Christine Mboma clocked an astonishing 9.86s on the anchor leg.

Nigeria ran a season-best 43.90 for the bronze medal.

Jamaica’s winning time broke the previous world record of 43.27 set by Germany in 2017. The time also erased the championship record of 43.40 set by Sherone Simpson, Kerron Stewart, Aneisha McLaughlin and Simone Facey when the championships were held in Kingston in 2002.

It was Jamaica’s third gold medal of the championships following those won by Tina Clayton in the 100m and Ackera Nugent in the 100m hurdles.

Earlier, Jaydon Hibbert jumped a personal best 16.05m to win the silver medal in the triple jump competition won by Sweden’s Gabriel Wallmark with a mark of 16.43m, a Swedish national U20 record.

Frenchman Simon Gore jumped a personal best 15.85m for the bronze medal.

Jamaica also won a silver medal in the discus in the form of Ralford Mullings who threw a personal best 66.68m to finish behind the now two-time champion Mykolas Alekna of Lithuania who won with a new championship record of 69.81m.

Raman Khartanovich threw a personal best 62.19m for the bronze medal.

Devontie Archer was an unexpected medalist in the 400m hurdles after he finished fourth in a new personal best of 49.78. However, Sweden’s Oskar Edlund, who crossed the finish line first was disqualified which meant that Archer was promoted to third and a medal.

Neutral athlete Denis Novoseletsen won the silver after he too ran a personal best of 49.62 with the gold going to Turkey’s Berke Akcam whose winning time of 49.38 was a national U20 record.

Jamaica mined three additional silver medals in the relays as the 4x100m team of Alexavier Monfries, Bryan Levell, Andrew Gillips and Sandrey Davison clocked an area record 38.61 behind South Africa World U20 record of 38.51.

Poland was third in 38.90, which is a new area record as well.

The final two medals came in the 4x400m relays in which the teams delivered strong performances. The girls ran 3:36.57 to claim silver behind Nigeria’s winning time of 3:31.46. Italy was the other team on the podium clocking 3:37.18.

The boys clocked 3:05.76 in a valiant effort to finish second to Botswana, who took the gold medal in 3:05.22. Kenya clocked 3:05.94 for the bronze medal.

Overall, Jamaica finished fifth on the medal table with three gold, six silver and two bronze medals at the championships.

 

Mason Greenwood felt Southampton's goal should not have been allowed to stand as Manchester United had to settle for a 1-1 draw at St Mary's.

Saints took the lead with what went down as a Fred own goal after Che Adams' shot deflected off the midfielder before flashing into the corner of the net on the half-hour mark.

Greenwood equalised with his second Premier League goal in many games, but the Red Devils were unable to fashion a winner.

Bruno Fernandes was furious he was not awarded a free-kick for a challenge from Jack Stephens prior to Saints' opening goal, but referee Craig Pawson and the VAR saw nothing untoward.

Greenwood felt United had been hard done by.

The forward told BBC's Match of the Day: "I think it's come through the back of him. I thought it was a foul but it's the referee's decision at the end of the day and we can't dwell on it.

"I understand they're going to let more challenges go so the game keeps flowing which is a good idea, but if there's a foul there's a foul."

Rafael Nadal was "practically lame" before he called an early end to his season and has been "stumbling all year round", coach Carlos Moya has revealed.

Former world number one and 20-time grand slam winner Nadal will miss the upcoming US Open but hopes to return in 2022, yet Moya says there are question marks over what the best course of treatment will be for the 35-year-old's foot problem.

In announcing his withdrawal from the rest of the campaign, Nadal declared a foot issue that he has been bothered by since 2005 was behind his decision.

The Spaniard took a break after losing a French Open semi-final to Novak Djokovic, skipping Wimbledon and the Olympic Games.

He attempted to make a return for the hard-court season but lost his second match in Washington to South African Lloyd Harris.

Moya, who was also briefly a world number one, said Nadal had managed to prolong a career that was in doubt 16 years ago, thanks to insoles and treatment.

"But this year the story has changed in many training sessions," Moya said. "He could not finish them and we had to change and ease intensity for the foot, thinking about the tournaments.

"He has been in pain for months and there comes a time when he cannot take it anymore. In the last match he played practically lame.

"The best thing was to stop, rest the foot and refresh the head."

Speaking to Spanish broadcaster Onda Cero's El Transistor show, Moya said: "It is not known where this injury comes from. There is a diagnosis but it is not clear which is the best treatment.

"Rafa's main objective is to regain sensations in his feet and in his head, because stumbling all year round has not helped him."

Cristiano Ronaldo was named only as a substitute for Juventus' opening Serie A match against Udinese amid renewed speculation he wants to leave the club.

Speaking ahead of his side's opening league game of 2021-22, head coach Massimiliano Allegri insisted Ronaldo had told him he wanted to stay in Turin.

Those comments came after the Portugal star posted to social media to hit out at what he described as "frivolous" rumours around his future.

However, on Sunday, Allegri selected Paulo Dybala and Alvaro Morata as a strike partnership, with Ronaldo on the bench.

Sky Sport Italia then reported that Ronaldo had requested to be left out of the first XI as he is attempting to secure a transfer before the window closes.

 

Ronaldo has been linked with a return to Real Madrid or Manchester United, while Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City have also been credited with interest.

However, any move would appear problematic. Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti has already said the 36-year-old will not be returning and Los Blancos are said to be trying to build funds for an attempt to sign Kylian Mbappe.

Selling the France star would likely be the only means for PSG to sign Ronaldo given the huge increase to their wage bill following the free transfer of Lionel Messi, while United must sell before buying again after spending upwards of £105million on Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane.

City, meanwhile, broke the Premier League transfer record by signing Jack Grealish for £100m and are expected to make another push to sign Harry Kane from Tottenham in the next week.

Mason Greenwood's second goal in as many Premier League games secured a record-equalling 1-1 draw for Manchester United at Southampton on Sunday.

Saints took the lead in the first half with what went down as an own goal by Fred, who saw Che Adams' shot strike him before finding the corner of the net at St Mary's Stadium.

The Red Devils put Southampton under huge pressure after the interval and Greenwood equalised following great work from the excellent Paul Pogba, who had struck the crossbar in the first half.

A point ensured United are unbeaten in 27 Premier League away matches, matching a record in the English top flight set by Arsenal between April 2003 and September 2004.

James Ward-Prowse tested David de Gea with a well-disguised free-kick in the first minute but United soon got into their stride.

Pogba's header looped up and struck the crossbar, with Anthony Martial's attempt following up cleared off the line by Mohammed Salisu.

Salisu came to the rescue again when he blocked a shot from Pogba, who headed a Luke Shaw free-kick over as Saints continued to look vulnerable from set-pieces.

It was Southampton who were in front on the half-hour mark, though, as Jack Stephens robbed Bruno Fernandes and Adams' left-footed shot from just outside the penalty area struck Fred before flashing beyond De Gea.

The Red Devils were level 10 minutes after the break as Greenwood's scuffed left-footed shot in a crowded box squirmed under Alex McCarthy after Pogba and Fernandes combined to create the opportunity.

Pogba was causing Saints all sorts of problems and he flashed a shot just wide after Jadon Sancho had replaced Martial.

Greenwood nodded wastefully over the bar and McCarthy palmed away a downward header from Fernandes as United dominated.

De Gea produced a sharp reflex save to deny Adam Armstrong against the run of play after Harry Maguire was dispossessed by Ward-Prowse, with Saints' new striker somehow failing to nod home at the back post from the resulting corner.

Jesse Lingard was introduced late on, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side were unable to snatch all three points at a ground where they came from two goals down to win last season.

Harry Kane made his Tottenham return as Dele Alli's first Premier League goal since March 2020 secured a 1-0 win over Nuno Espirito Santo's former club Wolves.

Kane, a target for Manchester City, did not feature in Spurs' opening day defeat of City or their loss to Pacos de Ferreira in midweek, though the England captain came on as a 71st-minute substitute at Molineux.

While speculation will no doubt continue to mount as the transfer window draws to a close, Kane received a warm welcome from the travelling Spurs fans as he helped Nuno maintain his winning league start.

With Kane missing a gilt-edged chance to settle the contest late on, Alli's ninth-minute penalty ultimately proved decisive – Adama Traore wasting Wolves' best opportunity.

Having dealt admirably with Raheem Sterling and Jack Grealish last week, Japhet Tanganga was tasked with keeping track of Traore this time around, though he had an early scare when the winger cut inside, only to blaze wide.

Wolves' bright start was swiftly punctured – Jose Sa colliding with Alli, who stepped up to slot home the resulting spot-kick.

Making his first Premier League appearance at Molineux since November 2020, Raul Jimenez went close to equalising before the half-hour mark, his first-time effort skimming over, before Alli was inches away from tucking in Steven Bergwijn's cross.

Nelson Semedo – who had earlier had a hopeful penalty appeal dismissed – tried his luck from range as Wolves started the second half with intent, the full-back's venomous strike whistling wide.

Spurs could have been 2-0 up soon after, Son Heung-min having raced clear, but Maximilian Kilman got across to block the forward's path.

Traore should have made Spurs pay as he went through one-on-one with Hugo Lloris, only to send his finish straight at the goalkeeper.

Kane's introduction drew chants of appreciation from the Spurs fans, though he showed rare profligacy when put through by Bergwijn – Sa making a smart double stop to keep Wolves in it, yet the goalkeeper's efforts were not enough to inspire a comeback.

Record signing Romelu Lukaku returns for his second Chelsea debut against Arsenal at Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

Having last appeared for the Blues during the 2013-14 campaign, Thomas Tuchel hands Lukaku his first start since he rejoined the club and leaves Timo Werner on the bench for the Premier League clash.

The Belgium forward, who netted 24 goals in 36 Serie A appearances to fire Inter to the Scudetto last term, will be joined by Mason Mount and Kai Havertz for support up top.

Christian Pulisic misses out due to COVID-19 with Havertz taking his place, while Reece James replaces Trevoh Chalobah, meaning Cesar Azpilicueta moves back to centre-back.

Behind the visitors' three-man defence, Edouard Mendy retains his place - the former Rennes goalkeeper keeping the most clean sheets in the Premier League (10) since Tuchel's appointment in January.

Chelsea are looking for their fifth consecutive away London derby league victory, last achieving such a feat under Jose Mourinho between January 2005 and January 2006.

However, Mikel Arteta's men were victorious in both fixtures last term, though they have not won three in a row in the competition since February 2004.

Arsenal are without Ben White, who misses out through COVID-19, so Rob Holding comes in at centre-back.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who tested positive for coronavirus prior to the defeat to Brentford last weekend, returns and is listed among the substitutes, but Alexandre Lacazette and Willian are both out after their positive tests.

New addition Martin Odegaard is not in the squad, but Arteta's other midweek signing Aaron Ramsdale makes the bench.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is poised to give Milan a huge early-season lift by roaring back into action.

The extroverted striker is just weeks away from returning to full team training after the knee injury that forced him to miss Sweden's Euro 2020 campaign.

Head coach Stefano Pioli knows a fit Ibrahimovic can transform his team, as was proven when he scored 15 goals in his first 15 Serie A games of last season.

He netted at one goal every 79.47 minutes during that run, and even though his scoring then dried up, the veteran remains a talisman with the Rossoneri.

Asked about Ibrahimovic's condition, Pioli said in a news conference on Sunday: "Physically, he is certainly looking better, even though he's not begun full training with the team and he's forcing things a little bit.

"Next week will be very important for him because he needs to start ball work and that's what he's been missing.

"So we'll see next week whether he's able to actually train with us, and during the international break he might be able to be fit and available.

"I think his role is always the same: Zlatan is a charismatic leader in terms of his character. He's a leader on the pitch as well, he really is the benchmark for everyone.

"He's a significant figure. He's very motivated."

 

Ibrahimovic stands eighth on the list of top scorers across all competitions over the past 10 seasons, among players competing in Europe's top five leagues.

That is all the more impressive given his goals across two seasons with LA Galaxy are not counted in his total of 247 strikes, and Pioli will know Milan carried a unique threat when Ibrahimovic was on hand last term.

They won 66.7 per cent of games where he started (12 of 18) and that dipped slightly to 60 per cent when Ibrahimovic was not in Pioli's XI.

Milan begin their 2021-22 season against Sampdoria on Monday, then face Cagliari next weekend, and those may be the only games Ibrahimovic has to miss, if Pioli's fitness forecast proves accurate.

"He's fit and firing mentally," Pioli said of the player who turns 40 in October.

"He's a player that can still be a matchwinner for the team, for himself. So he's very motivated and can't wait to get back into full training with his team-mates.

"The same goes for me: I can't wait to get him back on the training ground."

Johannes Veerman secured his first European Tour triumph at the 59th attempt after a dramatic end to the Czech Masters on Sunday.

Veerman, whose best career result had previously been a third-placed finish at July's Irish Open, snatched a two-stroke victory over the final two holes.

The American was playing alongside 2016 Open champion Henrik Stenson and overnight leading Tapio Pulkkanen, who had appeared on course to protect his advantage.

Pulkkanen took a two-shot lead into the final round and was one clear with two holes to play, not quite living up to Saturday's 66 but still three under for the day and 15 under for the tournament following back-to-back birdies.

But the Finn, himself in pursuit of a maiden win, lost form horribly to put victory on a plate for Veerman.

A bogey at the 17th brought Veerman back level and the victor only had to make par again at the last as Pulkkanen's double after finding water remarkably left him two shy, alongside Sean Crocker. Stenson, meanwhile, finished three back.

"It's unbelievable," Veerman told Sky Sports. "I played with two great players today, both of them played really well the whole entire way.

"At one point there was four of us all tied for the lead and I just stuck to my game.

"I can't believe I won. I'll wake up tomorrow and then I'll really feel it.

"I've never been so nervous on that shot into the [18th] green and even more nervous on that putt. It's so simple, done it a hundred times, but nothing that felt quite like it."

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