Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic said he would like to play with Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo as doubts remain over his future at Camp Nou.

Rakitic was heavily linked to Serie A duo Juventus and Inter before the transfer window closed, while Premier League giants Manchester United were also reportedly interested.

It came as Rakitic was reportedly offered to Ligue 1's Paris Saint-Germain as part of a deal to prise Neymar back to Camp Nou at the start of the season.

Rakitic continues to be linked with Italian champions Juve and when asked if he would like to play alongside five-time Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo, the 31-year-old told Bleacher Report Football: "Of course I would.

"He is also one of the greatest players in history.

"You enjoy watching him play and he's doing well at Juventus."

Rakitic is currently team-mates with Barca captain and six-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi and he said: "It's amazing to play with him - he's special. There have been great players in every era, but I'm sure he's been the best in the last 15 years.

"In my opinion, I think he's the best of all time. Being with him for six years has been incredible."

Rakitic previously vented his frustration with how head coach Ernesto Valverde and his staff were treated upon their sacking in January, admitting he considered leaving Barcelona.

"It's a part of football," Rakitic said. "You have to understand that and be ready [to potentially leave] in January.

"You have to be happy, you have to think about your family, and if I play for Barcelona I am happy."

Maurizio Sarri said Juventus' "growth has stalled" but the under-fire head coach is not worried after the Serie A champions snatched a draw against Milan in the Coppa Italia.

Cristiano Ronaldo's controversial 90th-minute penalty saw Juve escape with a 1-1 draw away to 10-man Milan in the first leg of their semi-final showdown on Thursday.

Coming off a shock defeat at Hellas Verona, which allowed Inter to move top of the Serie A table last week, Juve were far from their best again as Milan impressed.

Ante Rebic's 61st-minute opener looked set to be enough for Milan to secure first-leg honours, until Davide Calabria was harshly penalised for a handball at the death – Ronaldo making no mistake from the spot.

Juve have only won one of their past four matches in all competitions but Sarri is not unconcerned as pressure mounts amid links to former coach Massimiliano Allegri.

"I am not worried, as the only real worries in life are your health. It seems a normal phase to be going through, it's unthinkable for a team to be in a continual ascent," Sarri told Rai Sport.

"This is a sport and so much depends on the physical and psychological conditions of so many players.

"Our growth has stalled a little in the last three weeks, we concede avoidable goals. Having said that, we've conceded only three more than the best defence in Serie A, so it's not that much of an issue."

Sarri added: "We did better in terms of our passing and playing out from the back but were lacking in the final third. It's a process and we are continuing.

"We have conceded some avoidable goals, for example today the cross was quite slow and - in my view - easy to defend. We were coming off a bad performance in Verona, but picked up a positive result, especially as it's the first leg."

Juve – 13-time Coppa Italia winners – will welcome Milan to Turin for the return leg on March 4.

Stefano Pioli was angered by the late awarding of a penalty to Juventus as his Milan side had to settle for a frustrating 1-1 draw in the Coppa Italia semi-final first leg at San Siro.

Ante Rebic's volley just after the hour deservedly put Milan ahead and preceded a red card for Rossoneri full-back Theo Hernandez.

It took until injury time for Juve to make the most of the extra man with Davide Calabria harshly pinged for blocking Cristiano Ronaldo's acrobatic effort with his arm in the area.

Ronaldo rifled in the spot-kick, but head coach Pioli felt the decision does not marry with a separate incident in a fixture between Cagliari and Brescia earlier in the season, which he says referees said should not have been awarded.

Speaking to Rai, Pioli said: "I got angry first and foremost because there was a foul on Zlatan Ibrahimovic earlier in the move. 

"Plus I remember the referees showed footage of that Cagliari-Brescia penalty at the start of the season and said it was an error to award it because the player couldn't see the ball.

"Here the situation is the same as Calabria couldn't see it. Alberto Cerri, in that situation, jumped and could not just cut his arms off, you have to use your arms when jumping."

Pioli, who saw Milan denied on several occasions by veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, believes his team can be proud of their performance though.

"I told the players to leave the pitch without regrets. I can say, they will have no regrets. I am very proud of their performance, so are the Milan fans," he added.

"We wanted to get the victory, we were in a strong position to do so, but this is just the first leg and we'll try to do even better in the second."

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a last-gasp penalty to earn Juventus a scarcely deserved 1-1 draw against 10-man Milan in Thursday's Coppa Italia semi-final first leg at San Siro.

It was the prolific Portugal forward's athletic effort that struck the arm of Davide Calabria to earn the spot-kick, awarded after a VAR check, and he duly rifled home in added time.

Prior to the late drama, Milan had made the breakthrough just after the hour. Having been thwarted on several occasions by veteran Gianluigi Buffon, Ante Rebic finally scored before Theo Hernandez was sent off for a second bookable offence.

The Rossoneri were made to rue their missed chances, however, and face a tricky task in Turin to reach the final at the expense of Juve, who have a huge table-topping clash with Inter and a Champions League last-16 first-leg tie in Lyon among their fixtures before the return clash.

Jadon Sancho is a player in demand.

The former Manchester City youth player is a man in demand due to exploits with Borussia Dortmund.

The Premier League's elite are circling…

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL WANT SANCHO AMID UNITED LINKS

Liverpool want to sign Borussia Dortmund star and Manchester United target Jadon Sancho, according to the Daily Mail.

United are reportedly confident of luring the 19-year-old England international to Old Trafford, ahead of Premier League rivals Chelsea.

However, a fresh report claims Premier League leaders Liverpool have joined the race for the teenager as Jurgen Klopp hopes to take advantage of the relationship with former club Dortmund. Sky Germany also says Sancho will leave Dortmund at the end of the season.

 

ROUND-UP

Barcelona are preparing to re-sign Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain, reports El Confidencial. Neymar, who left Barca for a world-record €222m fee in 2017, has been heavily linked with a return to Camp Nou. After missing out on an off-season move, Neymar could be on his way back to the LaLiga giants – who are reportedly willing to sell one or two players to finance the blockbuster transfer.

- According to The Sun, Chelsea are battling United for the signature of 16-year-old Birmingham City sensation Jude Bellingham, who could cost up to £50million. The teenager has also attracted interest from Barcelona and Real Madrid.

- United recruit Odion Ighalo has been barred from the club's training ground due to ongoing coronavirus precautions, says The Mirror. Ighalo arrived from Chinese Super League side Shanghai Shenhua on deadline day, moving to United on loan until the end of the season. The Nigeria international, however, has not been allowed to train at Carrington.

Barca have ruled out signing Real Sociedad striker Willian Jose, reports Marca. With Ousmane Dembele and Luis Suarez sidelined, Barca are set to receive permission to sign an emergency forward within Spain. Real Betis' Loren Moron now reportedly tops the list of targets.

- Sandro Tonali has been valued at €55m and €60m by Brescia amid interest from Serie A champions Juventus and Inter, according to Calciomercato.

- Liverpool, United and Bayern Munich are eyeing Arsenal teenager Bukayo Saka, reports the Daily Mail.

- AS claims Real Valladolid defender Mohammed Salisu is at the centre of a transfer tug-of-war between Madrid, United and Atletico Madrid.

The Coppa Italia semi-final between Milan and Juventus will pit two of the greatest goalscorers of the modern era against each other.

Milan's Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Juve's Cristiano Ronaldo are set to renew acquaintances when San Siro plays host to Thursday's first leg.

Both Ibrahimovic and Ronaldo are in the latter stages of their careers, but the prospect of them sharing the pitch still adds an extra layer of intrigue to the occasion.

Here we look back at the previous meetings between two of world football's most feared finishers.

 

2009: Inter 0-0 Manchester United, Manchester United 2-0 Inter

Ronaldo got the better of Ibrahimovic and Inter in the last 16 of the Champions League as, after a goalless draw at San Siro in the first leg, the Portugal great headed United's second goal of the return to secure their progression.

2009: Barcelona 1-0 Real Madrid

Ibrahimovic left Inter for Barca at the end of the 2008-09 season, while Ronaldo made a then world-record move to Madrid following United's Champions League final loss to the Blaugrana. CR7 would again be frustrated by Barca as Ibrahimovic wrote his name into Clasico folklore with a superb far-post volley from Dani Alves' perfectly placed right-wing cross.

2010: Real Madrid 2-0 Milan, Milan 2-2 Real Madrid

Though Ibrahimovic lasted only one season at Camp Nou, he renewed acquaintances with Ronaldo in the Champions League group stages. Ronaldo set in motion a victory for Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu with a low free-kick from the edge of the area, but both players were held in check at San Siro in an entertaining draw.

2013: Portugal 1-0 Sweden, Sweden 2-3 Portugal

The second leg of the World Cup qualifying play-off between Sweden and Portugal proved unquestionably the best encounter featuring Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic so far, as they each delivered their best with a place in Brazil on the line. 

Ronaldo earned Portugal a 1-0 advantage in the first leg, and looked to have given them complete command of the tie five minutes into the second half in Solna. Ibrahimovic, though, turned the tie around with a headed equaliser followed by a rasping free-kick, only for Ronaldo to have the final say by superbly finishing off a counter and then emphatically converting from Joao Moutinho's throughball.

2015: Paris Saint-Germain 0-0 Real Madrid, Real Madrid 1-0 Paris Saint-Germain

The most recent meetings between the two featured no such fireworks as Madrid and PSG largely cancelled each other out across two Champions League group stage encounters, with Nacho scoring the goal that ultimately proved decisive in Los Blancos topping the group.

The Italian Post Office delivered a stern rebuke to Maurizio Sarri after the Juventus head coach said he would have taken a job at the postal service if he wanted to avoid pressure.

Sarri has come under fire following Juve's shock defeat to Hellas Verona last week, which allowed Serie A rivals Inter to move top of the table on goal difference.

There have also been reports former boss Massimiliano Allegri could be brought back to Turin, where ex-Chelsea and Napoli coach Sarri is only in his first season at the helm.

Preparing for Thursday's Coppa Italia semi-final first leg at Milan, Sarri was asked about the pressure and he told reporters, "If I hadn't wanted to be under scrutiny, I would have applied to work at the post office."

Those comments angered the Italian Post Office, which furiously hit back on Wednesday.

The statement read: "With regards to the comment by Maurizio Sarri, 'If I had wanted to avoid tough tests I'd have worked at the Post Office', Poste Italiane invite Mr Sarri to dedicate a few minutes of his precious time to educate himself on the fact the Post Office is the biggest company in the country.

"It is chosen by young graduates as one of the most attractive companies to work for, that it is recognised among the top 500 companies in the world for quality of working life, that it has one of the best performances on the stock exchange in 2019 and is in third place, on the global scale, among Italian companies for image and reputation.

"The tests therefore – contrary to what Mr Sarri maintains – are certainly there for Post Office staff and the company answers to citizens, businesses and public administrations.

"We invite him to view our daily work in person at one of our 15,000 operative offices."

 

Maurizio Sarri has vowed the pressure on his work at Juventus is "normal" and said he always fully expected president Andrea Agnelli to scrutinise his results.

The head coach had dinner at the weekend with Agnelli and sporting director Fabio Paratici, in the wake of Saturday's 2-1 defeat to Hellas Verona.

Juventus also suffered a rare loss at Napoli in late January.

There have been claims that Juventus could look to bring back Massimiliano Allegri, who has not moved on to a new job since leaving the Turin giants at the end of last season.

Allegri delivered five successive Serie A titles, but the club's run of eight in a row is coming under threat from Inter, who head Juventus on goal difference after 23 games.

Sarri stressed the dinner meeting had been long planned, and was initially due to take place on February 2 after the Fiorentina game.

In a news conference, he quipped: "If I hadn't wanted to be under scrutiny I would have applied to work at the post office."

Sarri added: "I see the president often, and every now and then we go out for dinner. It was something that was already planned. Andrea says he wants to introduce me to the best restaurants in Turin, but we never talk about a single game, rather about everything.

"It is normal that my work is always under scrutiny. We are in February and we are fighting for every competition, which is in line with the initial goals. It is clear that we come from a bad game, but with external rather than internal repercussions."

While the meeting at restaurant Il Bastimento triggered speculation in Italy, Sarri, in his first season at the club, is determined to prove he can meet the demands of his job.

Juventus are entering a crunch stage of their season, beginning with Thursday's Coppa Italia semi-final first leg at Milan.

They face Lyon in the Champions League last 16, with the first leg in France on February 26, before a March 1 date with Inter that could be pivotal in the Serie A title race.

Maurizio Sarri was giving little away when asked if he was planning to rest Cristiano Ronaldo before the club's Champions League tie against Lyon later this month.

Ronaldo has been in spectacular form in 2020 and has scored 11 goals in his last seven matches across all competitions, while he is also on a Juve record run after netting in 10 consecutive Serie A games.

The Portugal international's fitness was brought up by reporters ahead of Thursday's Coppa Italia semi-final first leg away to Milan, but Sarri insisted the forward was feeling strong a fortnight before their continental tie against Lyon begins.

"We will see," Sarri said about the prospect of resting Ronaldo.

"I have spoken with him and he told me he is feeling well right now. We will evaluate him on a game by game basis."

Sarri also provided an update on Giorgio Chiellini, who has not played since August having had surgery in September on a ruptured cruciate ligament.

The Juve boss said last week that the defender was closing in on a return and was positive again after Chiellini had taken part in a shortened friendly match involving Juventus' youth players and local team Chisola.

"Chiellini's road to recovery looks good," said Sarri. "He needs to do a few more tests like he did this morning."

Opponents Milan come into the game on the back of a morale-denting 4-2 derby loss to Inter, but Sarri is taking nothing for granted at San Siro.

"Milan have improved a lot in this period," said the former Chelsea boss, whose side are hoping to bounce back from a surprise 2-1 away Serie A loss to Hellas Verona.

"They come into the game off the back of the derby in which they played well. It will be a difficult game.

"My team is training well, with intensity and application. The standard is very high."

Manchester United or Chelsea?

The two Premier League giants are reportedly going head-to-head in the race to sign Borussia Dortmund teenager and England international Jadon Sancho.

And the Manchester club feel they can prise the 19-year-old to Old Trafford.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED BELIEVE THEY CAN PIP CHELSEA TO SANCHO

Manchester United are confident they will beat rivals Chelsea to the signing of in-demand Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, claims The Mirror.

Sancho is reportedly keen on returning to England, where the 19-year-old played for Manchester City's youth team before joining Bundesliga outfit Dortmund in 2017.

Dortmund are apparently willing to offload Sancho at the right price and Premier League giants United believe they can prise the England international to Old Trafford in a deal worth £120million (€142.5m).

 

ROUND-UP

- Will Mauricio Pochettino land at Old Trafford? According to journalist Duncan Castles, the former Tottenham manager is determined to take charge of United . His representatives are reportedly confident of convincing United's hierarchy that Pochettino is the right man for the job as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer struggles, with the Red Devils eighth in the Premier League.

- The Sun reports United are set for a double swoop to sign Aston Villa star Jack Grealish and Leicester City attacker James Maddison . Grealish has reportedly given the go-ahead for a move to Old Trafford, while Maddison has apparently been in talks over a contract extension with Leicester.

Marcelo Brozovic to Real Madrid? Mundo Deportivo says the Inter and Croatia international midfielder is wanted by the LaLiga giants. Madrid have also been linked to United's Paul Pogba and Ajax star Donny van de Beek

Barcelona have been told it will take €35m to sign Willian Jose from Real Sociedad, reports Marca. Barca are looking to strengthen their attack following long-term injuries to Ousmane Dembele and Luis Suarez.

- According to The Express, Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho is plotting a £120m transfer spree at the end of the season. Benfica defender Ruben Dias is a target, as well as Norwich City's Max Aarons, Bournemouth centre-back Nathan Ake and Leicester full-back Ben Chilwell.

Stefano Pioli is contracted to Milan until 2021 but the head coach – who replaced Marco Giampaolo at the start of the campaign – is no certainty to continue beyond this season. According to Calciomercato, Elliott Management want Ralf Rangnick but Paolo Maldini is reportedly pushing for former Milan striker and current Ukraine boss Andriy Shevchenko.

- Football Insider claims Liverpool are set to offer star defender Virgil van Dijk a new £50m deal amid reported interest from Serie A champions Juventus.

Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny has signed a new contract with the Serie A champions until 2024.

The Poland international has established himself as the Turin giants' first-choice keeper since Gianluigi Buffon joined Paris Saint Germain ahead of the 2018-19 season.

Juve on Tuesday announced that Szczesny, signed from Arsenal in July 2017 after spending two seasons on loan at Roma, has extended his stay with the Serie A title contenders.

The 29-year-old has made 84 appearances for the defending champions, winning the Scudetto twice, and the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana once apiece.

Szczesny has been commanding for Maurizio Sarri's side this season, keeping Buffon on the bench for much of the campaign after the Italy icon's return to the club.

He said: "This is a demonstration on behalf of the club of the trust they have in me, and so I am very happy.

"I will look to keep giving my best in the next few years with Juve."

He added: "I am here until 2024 and I want to win everything. This is the objective of the club and the players. We need to sweat, to run and sacrifice to achieve the objectives, which is more trophies and titles."

After 23 Serie A matches this term, Juve are second to Antonio Conte's Inter, trailing them on goal difference.

Juventus are reportedly lining up an incredible move for Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.

Guardiola has been in charge of City since 2016 and is contracted to remain at the helm of the Premier League champions until the end of next season.

However, Juve seemingly have other ideas.

 

TOP STORY – JUVENTUS PLAN TO MAKE MOVE FOR GUARDIOLA

Juventus will give Guardiola whatever it takes to join them ahead of the 2020-21 campaign, according to The Sun.

The Serie A giants were linked with a stunning move for the Spaniard last year, but did not get their man.

Guardiola apparently intends to honour his contract at City, but Juve are prepared to give him whatever he wants.

ROUND-UP

- Philippe Coutinho has no plans to return to Barcelona and wants to make his move to Bayern Munich permanent, according to Catalunya Radio. The Bundesliga club hold an option to buy the attacker, but are reportedly yet to make a decision over whether they will make the move permanent.

- Barcelona are not yet giving up on signing Willian Jose from Real Sociedad. Marca reports the LaLiga giants are still considering the attacker amid a negotiable price despite Willian Jose's buyout clause being set at €70million.

- Jose Mourinho is planning for next season at Tottenham. The Daily Express reports the Spurs head coach is looking to spend £120m on defenders ahead of 2020-21, with Benfica's Ruben Dias and Bournemouth's Nathan Ake leading the list of targets.

- Liverpool tried to sign Villarreal attacker Samuel Chukwueze during January, according to France Football, which reports the European champions offered £29.6m (€35m) for the Nigeria international. Staying at Anfield and the Daily Express says Liverpool are set to offer 18-year-old full-back Neco Williams a new contract.

- Amid surprise reports Barcelona tried to bring Andres Iniesta back to Camp Nou in January, Marca says the LaLiga club's sporting management never considered a return to the club for the Vissel Kobe midfielder.

- Inter are set to decide in the next 48 hours whether to sign goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano after the 34-year-old completed medicals at the Serie A high-flyers, according to CalcioMercato. Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic suffered a finger injury last week.

Riccardo Orsolini is worth at least €70million amid reported interest from Juventus, according to Bologna sporting director Walter Sabatini.

Orsolini, 23, joined Bologna on loan from Juve in January 2018 before that move was made permanent ahead of this season.

The attacker has scored seven goals and provided four assists in 23 Serie A games this season, leading to reports Juve may be interested in bringing him back to Turin.

Amid talk Orsolini could return to Juve for €25m, Sabatini insisted there was no buy-back clause and said the one-time Italy international was worth almost triple that.

"I give Orsolini a value of not less than €70m," he told Etv on Monday.

"I repeat that he will not leave. He is followed by the national team like so many others and I think good news is coming to Coverciano [Italy's headquarters].

"I hope he can go to the European Championship, but [Italy coach Roberto] Mancini doesn't need my advice."

Bologna are seventh in Serie A and host Genoa on Saturday.

Douglas Costa is set to miss the first leg of Juventus' Champions League last-16 tie against Lyon due to injury.

The winger sustained hamstring damage in Juve's shock 2-1 Serie A defeat to Hellas Verona on Saturday.

Following tests by the club's medical staff, Costa is now expected to be out of action for between 15 and 20 days.

It means the 29-year-old is unlikely to be fit for the trip to Lyon on February 26, while he is also a doubt for the top-of-the-table clash with Inter on March 1.

Costa will also miss Juve's Coppa Italia semi-final first leg with Milan on Thursday, as well as Serie A games at home to Brescia and away to SPAL.

Injuries have blighted much of Costa's time in Turin, the Brazil international having only started five league games under Maurizio Sarri this season.

Paris Saint-Germain reportedly have no interest in listening to offers for star Kylian Mbappe.

Mbappe, 21, has repeatedly been linked to Real Madrid, rumours which only intensified after the forward was involved in a bust-up with coach Thomas Tuchel.

But PSG are prepared to make the France international see out his contract, rather than lose one of their star players.

 

TOP STORY – PSG STANDING FIRM OVER MBAPPE AMID MADRID LINKS

PSG will not listen to offers for Mbappe amid links to Real Madrid, according to Marca.

Mbappe is contracted in Paris until 2022 and the Ligue 1 giants are willing to make him see out his deal.

PSG have also tried to extend Mbappe's contract, moves which are set to continue despite his seeming unhappiness at the club.

ROUND-UP

- With Ole Gunnar Solskjaer under some pressure at Old Trafford, Mauricio Pochettino has not given up on becoming Manchester United manager ahead of next season, according to the Mirror.

- While Pochettino may arrive, Paul Pogba seems likely to leave United. Tuttosport reports the midfielder and Juventus attacker Paulo Dybala dream of playing together again, with Pogba perhaps set for a return to Turin. Dybala is in contract talks with Juventus with his deal expiring in 2022.

- Jack Grealish seems to know where he wants to be. Goal reports the midfielder is ready to join Manchester United from Aston Villa, although no formal talks have taken place. The Sun says Grealish prefers Manchester United over other clubs, while the Mirror reports Manchester City have joined the race for the Englishman.

- With Luis Suarez set to miss most of the rest of the season due to injury, Barcelona are eyeing a move for … Luis Suarez. El Larguero reports Barcelona have made contact with Real Zaragoza over the forward, who is on loan from Watford. Suarez has scored 14 goals in the Segunda Division this season.

- On loan at Newcastle United from Tottenham, Danny Rose will be watched by Paris Saint-Germain ahead of a possible move at the end of the season, according to The Sun.

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