Carlo Ancelotti joked he will call Zlatan Ibrahimovic about a move to Napoli following Saturday's 2-0 win over Hellas Verona.

LA Galaxy superstar Ibrahimovic talked up his chances of a return to Serie A as the 38-year-old expressed his interest in playing for Ancelotti's Napoli.

Former Juventus, Inter and AC Milan striker Ibrahimovic claimed he would score 20 goals a season in Italy's top flight during an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport.

Responding to Ibrahimovic's comments after Arkadiusz Milik's double guided Napoli past Verona, head coach Ancelotti told Sky Sport Italia: "I'll call him tonight and say we're waiting!

"I have a great deal of affection for him, I saw he scored 29 goals in 30 MLS games.

"Tomorrow, after I've called him, I'll let you know how it went!"

Ibrahimovic and the Galaxy are in action in the MLS play-offs on Sunday.

The Galaxy will meet Minnesota United for a spot in the Western Conference semi-finals against Supporters' Shield champions Los Angeles FC.

Ibrahimovic netted 30 goals during the regular season, four adrift of top scorer and LAFC captain Carlos Vela.

Ex-Manchester United star Ibrahimovic is out of contract at the end of the season and the veteran has been linked with a return to Italy, as well as Argentine giants Boca Juniors – where Roma great Daniele De Rossi is based.

Maurizio Sarri told Juventus to curb needless showboating after their 2-1 win over Bologna on Saturday.

The Bianconeri established a four-point lead over Inter at the top of Serie A after goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Miralem Pjanic secured the victory.

However, Sarri was unhappy with the manner in which some of his attacking players took to excessively showing their skills rather than killing the game off.

Bologna almost snatched a point amid some late drama that included a penalty appeal against defender Matthijs de Ligt and Federico Santander hitting the bar before forcing a save from goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon with an overhead kick.

"It was a good game, tainted by some mistakes," Sarri said.

"The boundary between dribbling in a productive way and becoming a bit superficial, however, is thin: for 40 minutes we did it well, for five minutes incorrectly.

"We have to dribble with substance and not just for the sake of it.

"We must manage the result and the energy levels. We have to secure games and in the second half we had the chance to do so."

Pjanic felt Juventus' victory was merited even though they were hanging on at the end as Bologna threw caution to the wind in stoppage time.

"We knew it would be a complicated game, we have seen them play often," he said.

"Bologna are in good shape, play well and are organised on the pitch. 

"We deserved it. We had to score one more goal to secure the result but in the end they are three precious points, after the [international] break it is never easy. 

"In the end they too got tired, because they had to run a lot. We are happy and move forward."

Cristiano Ronaldo scored for the fourth Serie A home game in succession as Juventus claimed a 2-1 victory over Bologna on Saturday despite some late drama.

The Portugal forward has netted in all of Juve's home league fixtures this season and opened the scoring with a typically clinical finish.

Bologna levelled with a sumptuous half-volley from full-back Danilo before Miralem Pjanic restored Juve's advantage after some poor defending by the visitors.

Late in the game, the visitors had a penalty appeal for handball against Matthijs de Ligt turned down and hit the crossbar, while Gianluigi Buffon made a fine late save as Juve moved four points clear at the top of the table.

Ronaldo was presented with a special award by Juventus before kick-off having scored his 700th career goal while on international duty and it did not take him long to add to that tally.

A move which began at the back culminated in cross-field pass in Ronaldo's direction which Bologna's Ladislav Krejci only managed to divert into the path of the Juventus man.

Ronaldo created a shooting angle with a stepover on the right edge of the penalty area, and then struck a powerful low effort which beat goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski at his near post.

However, Bologna got themselves back on level terms with a fine strike from full-back Danilo.

The Brazilian defender controlled a high ball on his chest before he struck a sweet half-volley which left Buffon grasping at thin air.

Juventus went through the gears after the interval and were ahead again after some lacklustre defending when Bologna failed to clear their lines.

The ball pinged around the edge of the area before dropping into the path of Pjanic, who steered a low shot into the corner of the net.

Sinisa Mihajlovic's side appealed for a penalty in the dying minutes when the ball struck De Ligt on the arm, but VAR backed up referee Massimiliano Irrati's decision not to award the spot-kick.

Buffon then made a brilliant save to deny substitute Federico Santander after his initial head came back off the bar, with the veteran goalkeeper then pushing a spectacular overhead kick from the Paraguayan over the top in the game's final act.

 

What does it mean? Relentless Juve in pole position

The Juventus machine rolls on. After a 2-1 win over Inter before the international break, which saw the Bianconeri leapfrog their rivals into first place, the Italian champions tightened their grip on top spot.

For Juve head coach Maurizio Sarri it has been a case of 'if it isn't broke, don't try to fix it' and although his side lacked some of their usual swagger, they had too much quality for Bologna.

Juve are four points clear of Inter and the clinical manner in which they are able to win games means they are going to take some stopping in Serie A this season 

Ronaldo sparkles again 

Another game, another goal. Ronaldo has been in wonderful form for both club and country recently and at 34 shows no signs of letting up.

He was full of flicks and tricks, and scored a goal which owed much to his ability to shoot from improbable positions as the power he can generate with his shot.

Palacio fails to make an impact

At 37, Rodrigo Palacio's career is firmly in its twilight but Bologna needed more from the veteran Argentina forward against such dominant opposition.

Palacio struggled to make an impact up front, and was unable to hold on to the ball when Bologna desperately needed a breather.

What's next?

Juventus host Lokomotiv Moscow in the Champions League on Tuesday before an away trip to Lecce next Saturday. Bologna are next in action a week on Sunday when they welcome Sampdoria to the Stadio Renato Dall'Ara a week on Sunday.

Atalanta collapsed from 3-0 up to draw at Lazio on Saturday, missing the chance to move to the top of the Serie A table.

Gian Piero Gasperini's side have made a superb start to the domestic season, despite suffering consecutive defeats to begin their debut Champions League campaign.

The Bergamo outfit could have climbed to the Serie A summit with victory in Rome - at least until champions Juventus played later on Saturday - and were cruising at half-time.

Atalanta, who face Manchester City away on Tuesday, led as Luis Muriel scored twice in quick succession midway through the first half.

Captain Alejandro Gomez then stretched their advantage further heading into the break.

But the visitors fell apart in quite spectacular fashion, with their lead cut thanks to two goals in two minutes from Ciro Immobile and Joaquin Correa.

Atalanta still looked to have held on until Immobile, who won and dispatched a penalty for his first, again went down in the area and converted from the spot in the 92nd minute.

The Italy striker then comically failed in his attempts to take his shirt off in celebration, falling over but still earning a yellow card.

The moment of hilarity was of little comfort to Atalanta ahead of a daunting European trip to the Etihad Stadium.

Inter do not need to sign Zlatan Ibrahimovic to challenge in the Champions League and close the gap on Juventus in Serie A, according to Antonio Conte.

After going unbeaten in their opening seven matches under Conte, the Nerazzurri have lost their last two fixtures - against Barcelona in the Champions League before they went down 2-1 to Juve prior to the international break.

Injuries to Stefano Sensi and Alexis Sanchez, meanwhile, have depleted Conte's squad heading into Sunday's meeting with Sassuolo.

Former Inter striker Ibrahimovic - whose contract with LA Galaxy expires in December - has claimed he would be open to a return to Serie A, though Conte does not believe his side need a player of the Swede's quality to push on.

"I do not talk about players that are not mine. It would not be respectful," Conte told a news conference when asked if Inter could move for Ibrahimovic.

"I have respect for Ibra of course, he is a quality player. He has made history in this game.

"I respect him and rate him but it is not right to talk of others, also because I have lots of faith in my players and I have so much respect for my squad. We will get better and keep improving. From these setbacks against Juve and Barca we must come back stronger.

"We need to keep being consistent, we need consistency in displays and training, we must improve every day, this is what I want. If we do this we will take the next step.

"In every match there are areas to work on. We always analyse the good and the bad. We have highlighted areas to work on. I cannot expect miracles."

Sanchez had started promisingly for Inter since arriving on loan from Manchester United, but is now expected to miss up to three months after undergoing surgery on an ankle injury sustained while on international duty with Chile.

"I am upset to lose him. We are all disappointed," Conte said.

"He is a player we thought was back to his best. He was doing well and I was pleased. Now he is injured, it is a real shame also for him.

"He arrived full of enthusiasm and was doing well. He was showing he is the Sanchez of old.

"However, he is now injured and that is part of the game, I had lots of injuries as a player, but each time you come back stronger."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic claimed he would still score 20 goals a season in Serie A as he talked up his chances of a return to Italy's top flight.

But Ibrahimovic labelled former club AC Milan "a disaster" in a wide-ranging interview with Gazzetta dello Sport, while also poking fun at Inter forward Romelu Lukaku's first touch.

Former Sweden striker Ibrahimovic was discussing his options for a next move as his LA Galaxy contract expires in December following the MLS playoffs.

The 38-year-old has been linked with a return to Manchester United, but he suggested Serie A, where he represented Juventus and both Milan clubs, might be his preferred destination.

"I am 38 years old and have the enthusiasm of a kid, with that same desire to win. That, for me, is everything," Ibrahimovic said.

"Italy is my second home. I will listen to all offers, but I want to fight for the maximum target. If I were to come back, I'd want to challenge for the Scudetto, not just be signed by someone because I am Ibrahimovic.

"I can still make the difference. I'm not a zoo animal to be put on display for people to see. I can still get 20 goals in Serie A."

Milan, who are 13th in Serie A with nine points from seven matches, would not appear to be an option, though, and Ibrahimovic picked out Paolo Maldini for criticism.

"Milan are a disaster. They're all talk and no action," he said.

"This is not the club everyone fell in love with, in Italy and all over the world. Perhaps there are too many wrong people who should be elsewhere.

"Paolo Maldini doesn't have what it takes to be a director, whereas in his playing career he was one of my all-time favourites."

Meanwhile, the striker revealed a mooted bet with former team-mate Lukaku, whose touch was maligned by some supporters during his time at United.

Ibrahimovic explained: "At Manchester United, we made a bet, 'I'll give you £50 for every decent first touch you make'. He replied: 'What do I win if I get them all right?'

"I told him nothing, he would simply become a better player. For the record, he never accepted the bet! Perhaps he was afraid of losing."

Sergio Aguero and Zlatan Ibrahimovic have been included in FIFA 20's first Ultimate Scream pack ahead of Halloween.

EA Sports announced the release of the FIFA Ultimate Team cards on Friday, with Manchester City striker Aguero and LA Galaxy star Ibrahimovic among the standout names.

Top-rated Aguero is joined in the first batch by fellow Premier League players Dele Alli, Nicolas Otamendi and Bernard, with a second group of players to be released next Friday.

Below, we have the list of FUT cards that are up for grabs.

FUT Ultimate Scream pack

LM: Bernard (Everton) - 84

CB: Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City) - 85

LM: Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund) - 85

CAM: Marcel Sabitzer (RB Leipzig) - 85

CB: Alessio Romagnoli (AC Milan) - 86

CDM: William Carvalho (Real Betis) - 86

CAM: Dele Alli (Tottenham) - 87

CAM: James Rodriguez (Real Madrid) - 88

CAM: Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich) - 88

ST: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (LA Galaxy) - 88

ST: Sergio Aguero (Manchester City) - 91

Carlo Ancelotti is pleased to have the full backing of Aurelio De Laurentiis and has thanked Napoli's chairman for clarifying "lies" that surfaced in the media.

Italian outlet Corriere dello Sport this month reported Ancelotti is considering his future at Stadio San Paolo following a difficult run of form.

Napoli entered the international break on the back of one win in four matches in all competitions and already trail Serie A leaders Juventus by six points.

De Laurentiis this week rubbished suggestions he had fallen out with Ancelotti and assured the veteran coach he can stay on for another decade should he wish.

Ancelotti has reiterated he is happy in Naples and is keen to get his side's campaign back on track, starting with victory at home to Hellas Verona on Saturday.

"De Laurentiis' comments cleared up the rubbish we've heard people saying about us," he said at Friday's pre-match news conference.

"We have an excellent relationship and I'm very happy here. What the president said came from the heart. 

"I'm pleased he has confidence in me and I'm also happy he cleared up some of the lies that have been going around.

"What matters now is that we look forward and get back to winning again. We have a very important game tomorrow which gives us the chance to pick up three points and get going again."

Back-to-back goalless draws have been compounded by tension between Ancelotti and captain Lorenzo Insigne, who was left out of the squad for the stalemate with Genk.

Insigne admitted this week he does not always see eye-to-eye with his coach, though Ancelotti has talked up the forward's importance.

"The situation with Lorenzo is not at all complicated," he said. "He made an excellent start to the season then he had a dip in form and I decided to rest him. 

"He's a key player when he's relaxed, happy and able to fire up the team as he does so well. He's less effective when he's on edge because he's not able to express his full potential.

"I didn't think he looked sharp in training and decided that it was best [to leave him out against Genk] - a strong decision perhaps but it's all cleared up. I repeat, Insigne is a hugely important player for us."

Inter midfielder Stefano Sensi is set to miss out on a reunion with Sassuolo after suffering another injury to his right thigh.

The on-loan Italy international was being reintegrated into training ahead of this weekend's Serie A fixture when he reported a "small" problem, according to an Inter statement.

An MRI scan on Friday detected a strain in the same thigh he injured in the 2-1 loss to Juventus before the international break.

Sensi lasted until the 34th minute of that match and could now miss next week's crucial Champions League clash against Borussia Dortmund, along with Sunday's trip to face the club he left in July.

"Today's tests revealed a strain to the psoas muscle," Inter's statement read. "His condition will be assessed in the next few days."

Sensi is on loan at Inter from Sassuolo but is widely expected to make the move permanent for a reported €25million fee at the end of the campaign.

The 24-year-old has been one of the key factors in the Nerazzurri's strong start under Antonio Conte, scoring three goals in seven league appearances.

Mario Mandzukic's days at Juventus look to be numbered after Maurizio Sarri confirmed the forward will not take part in training unless his transfer situation changes.

Mandzukic, 33, has not played a single competitive minute since Sarri took charge at Allianz Stadium and was left off Juve's 22-man list for the Champions League.

AC Milan are rumoured to have joined Manchester United in the race for the Bianconeri outcast, who reportedly held talks with Qatari side Al Rayyan last month

Mandzukic is said to want to explore his options and an understanding has been reached for him to refrain from training, a move that reduces chances of injury ahead of a potential transfer.

However, Sarri did not entirely rule out the possibility of the Croatian returning to the fold.

"Mandzukic is not training with us, in agreement with the club," the Juve head coach told a news conference on Friday. "If the agreement changes, I am open to everything."

While the former Wolfsburg, Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid attacker is out of the frame for now, Sarri will regain defender Danilo for Saturday's home game against Bologna.

The full-back has recovered from a thigh injury and is set to join the Aaron Ramsey in the matchday squad, the midfielder having overcome the minor muscle problem that kept him out of Wales duty.

Juve head into the weekend as Serie A leaders thanks to their 2-1 win over title rivals Inter before the international break.

The victory was seen as a vindication of the new playing style Sarri has brought to the club but he is hesitant to place too much emphasis on a single result.

"I've been living with scepticism for years, so it doesn't affect me," the ex-Chelsea boss said.

"The rankings in the table right now are not important. We have to concentrate on finding the right continuity in terms of performance.

"That game against Inter was important but it has passed, so we need to focus only on the next one.

"It's always difficult starting again after the international break. It's not easy for the players and there are a lot of risks."

The transfer window may be shut, but Paul Pogba's future is still making headlines.

Pogba – who is set to miss the Premier League showdown against Liverpool due to injury – reportedly eyed a Manchester United exit and a move to Real Madrid.

A switch to the Santiago Bernabeu could be on the horizon after Pogba was snapped with Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane in the United Arab Emirates.

 

TOP STORY – POGBA MEETS ZIDANE IN DUBAI

Pogba has been linked with a fresh move to Madrid after the United star was pictured with Zidane, reports The Mirror.

Pogba wanted to leave United during the previous window, with LaLiga giants Madrid and former club Juventus the two favourites to sign the Frenchman, but a move did not materialise.

However, Pogba – recovering from a foot injury – was seen with Madrid head coach Zidane during his trip to Dubai, fuelling fresh speculation over his future at Old Trafford.

 

ROUND-UP

- According to 90min, United are monitoring Paris Saint-Germain forward Edinson Cavani. The 32-year-old Uruguay international is out of contract at this season's end and has been linked to Juve, Atletico Madrid and Inter Miami.

- Inter are chasing Brescia sensation Sandro Tonali and Atalanta's Dejan Kulusevski, says Calciomercato. Both players are 19 years of age and attracting interest in Serie A.

- Calciomercato also reports Tottenham are ready to send Christian Eriksen to Juventus in exchange for Adrien Rabiot. Eriksen's contract expires at the end of the season and has been linked to the likes of Madrid and United, while Rabiot only moved to Turin from PSG at the end of 2018-19.

- Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, United, Spurs and Inter have been credited with interest in Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Denis Zakaria, according to Bild.

- Manchester City have emerged as favourites to sign Hearts teenager Aaron Hickey, claims the Daily Star.

Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis admitted there will be a time when he will have to sell star defender Kalidou Koulibaly.

Koulibaly has established himself as one of the best and most in-demand defenders in the world since joining Napoli from Genk in 2014.

The 28-year-old Senegal international was heavily linked to Manchester United before the Premier League giants signed Harry Maguire in a world-record transfer prior to the transfer window closing.

Koulibaly continues to be linked to United and when asked about Napoli's centre-back, De Laurentiis told Sky Sport Italia: "I loved Koulibaly the man so I refused €105million, but a time will come when I'll have to sell him. Whoever says we didn't improve our defence is wrong."

Napoli midfielder Fabian Ruiz is also attracting plenty of interest amid links to LaLiga pair Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Fabian swapped Real Betis for Napoli in a €30m deal in 2018-19 and the Spaniard has starred in Serie A.

"Fabian's always been a top player," De Laurentiis said. "If I convince myself to pay a stranger €30m, I do it for a reason and now I know why.

"It's one thing to play for your country and another to do it for a team who play every three days. We found Fabian, but we'll find more like him. The door's always open. I don't get attached to players."

The futures of Dries Mertens and Jose Callejon are also uncertain, with the Napoli duo linked with moves to the Chinese Super League.

"I'm absolutely not prepared to make a major effort for them," De Laurentiis added. "Each player has a value, depending on where they play, how they play, how old they are and what they do.

"If they want to sell themselves out in China, overpaid to live a life of s*** for two or three years, it's their problem. I can't consider China to be competitive. China's far away. If they consider it to be close, it's their problem.

"In life, you have to choose whether to be happy and find a job you enjoy doing or work just for money. For me, money is a means and not an end; if it's an end for them then they should go to China."

De Laurentiis also said Napoli captain Lorenzo Insigne must "change his attitude" as he threw his support behind head coach Carlo Ancelotti.

Amid reports of a tense relationship between Insigne and Ancelotti, De Laurentiis added: "I didn't fight with Ancelotti, he can stay here for another 10 years. In cinema, my relationships, like my one with [director Carlo] Verdone, last a long time.

"Insigne's an excellent sportsman, but he must stay calm, change his attitude and lay off certain things. He's always had an attitude of discomfort in Naples. I understand him, I protect him and I like him a lot, but he's always found his situation in Naples to be uncomfortable. Therefore, I just want to say that he needs to calm down and become a more peaceful person, but that's his problem. Neither [agent Mino] Raiola nor Ancelotti can resolve that.

"He's a great player and he can be in good form or bad form. If he's less so, it's up to the coach not to play him. Insigne can't come out cracking jokes or with an 'almost' defiant attitude. The coach is a family man, 60 years old, and won't tell you to get lost because he's three times your age."

VAR technology could be used to weed out racists during matches, the head of Italy's football federation has proposed.

President Gabriele Gravina said the federation [FIGC] would look for support from authorities to improve video technology with a view to pinpointing offenders.

The VAR – or Video Assistant Referee – system has become a major component of modern football, but only in helping referees reach correct decisions on the pitch.

According to Gravina, the same equipment could be deployed to closely monitor the stands at matches.

Although closed circuit television is already often in use to observe behaviour of fans, Gravina appeared to indicate a higher grade of kit should be used.

He said, speaking to Sky Sport24: "If it is one, two or 10 people – action must be taken. Companies today can identify those responsible through technology. We have an experiment in mind that should give great results and we will talk about that soon.

"I have no intention – and nor does the world of football – to let down my guard. It astonishes me that some chants are sometimes heard and other times not: we need to understand the reasons, this isn't normal.

"We will use VAR against the 'buu' [the noise regarded as racist in Italy]."

Gravina suggested Bulgarian Football Union [BFU] chief Borislav Mihaylov may have been treated harshly after he resigned in the wake of Monday's match against England in Sofia, where several home fans aimed racist abuse at visiting players and some were seen making Nazi salutes.

Mihaylov stepped down on Tuesday after being told he must go by the Bulgarian prime minister, with the government threatening to pull funding from the BFU.

Gravina also said any perception of Italy as "the country of the maximum concentration of racial discrimination" had been disproved.

Instead, Gravina said: "It is a widespread phenomenon, to be condemned powerfully and throughout the continent."

He called on government authorities to collaborate with sporting bodies to fight racism, and said "improving the technological aspect" of battling the problem should be a priority, with support from police and political allies.

"We can win the battle if we are united and focused on a common goal – removing these people from our competition," Gravina added.

Roma coach Paulo Fonseca has had his Serie A touchline ban reduced from two matches to one.

Fonseca was handed a two-game ban by the Lega Serie A after continuing to aggressively shout at referee Davide Massa following his dismissal in Roma's 1-1 draw with Cagliari on October 6.

However, the 46-year-old appealed the decision and will now only miss one game - Sunday's trip to Sampdoria - before returning to the dugout for next week's home meeting with AC Milan.

Roma, who confirmed the news on their official Twitter page on Thursday, sit fifth in Serie A ahead of their return to action this weekend.

Uncertainty surrounds Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after a woeful start to the season and he could find himself in danger of dismissal.

United have won only two of their first eight Premier League games of 2019-20 and head into Sunday's visit of Liverpool 15 points adrift of the pacesetters.

While Solskjaer insists he still has the board's backing, there have been suggestions the club has identified a replacement.

 

TOP STORY – ALLEGRI 'VERY CLOSE' TO UNITED

Former Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri is said to be a primary target for Manchester United.

Italian publication Tuttosport claims contact with Allegri – who left the Old Lady at the end of last season – has "intensified" in recent days.

They go as far as saying Allegri is "very close to United", with the contest against Liverpool seemingly crucial.

However, United are not the only club interested in Allegri. Tuttosport also believes Tottenham are keeping tabs on him.

Mauricio Pochettino is another man under pressure following a difficult few months, though the report suggests Spurs will have to make their minds up quickly if they are to gazump United.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Daily Mail believes Solskjaer is relatively safe despite Allegri's lurking, however. It says United are looking to bolster the squad with six major signings over the next two transfer windows. Among the targets are Mario Mandzukic, Saul Niguez, Moussa Dembele and James Maddison.

- Mandzukic's wage demands could prevent a move to Old Trafford, however. Despite being 33 and entering the twilight of his career, the Croatian wants to be the club's fourth highest-paid player, according to the Sun.

- Arsenal's plan for the future, according to AS, involves persuading Real Madrid to sell Dani Ceballos, a deal that would result in Mesut Ozil being sold.

- Meanwhile, the Daily Mail also claims the Gunners also want to sign highly-rated Athletic Bilbao centre-back Unai Nunez, 22, with Everton set to rival them for the £30million-rated defender.

- Paris Saint-Germain are hopeful of securing new deals for Juan Bernat and Marquinhos, L'Equipe believes.

- Roma are set to bid farewell to Javier Pastore in January, with the Serie A side telling him he is free to leave, as per Calciomercato. A move to China, Brazil or his native Argentina appears likely.

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